Thursday, March 13, 2014

Guinea Pigs and Miracles: 24 February 2014

¡Hola familia y amigos!

I had to walk home from the Central of Leon in jeans today because we got on the wrong bus, and it felt so weird.  I'm always, always in a skirt, and walking down the same streets I pass by every day in pants felt scandalous. I seriously felt naked. The cat calls don't help, either. "Ay! psst psst psst, Gatita! Chelita! Que bonitas ojos tienes!" commence with snapping and clapping, because logically I would respond to those things.  "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME HAVEN'T YOU EVER SEEN A WHITE PERSON BEFORE??" Geeze.

Spanish lesson of the week: Ulitos = little hair ties. Culitos..... hahaha well, you can google it. But I can assure you I don't want them anywhere near my hair.

We've had a lot of interesting service opportunities this week. Including and not limited to stopping in Guadalupe Park in front of the huge Catholic church there and helping a women peel about 100 potatoes and cutting them into french fry shapes (it made me laugh the way we approached her. "Well hey there! I see that you are peeling potatoes. Can we help?"), giving one of our investigators a foot rub (made me think of you, mom. And also how weird it is that I'm always giving random people foot massages), making a rather delicious pineapple upside down cake for the BAPTISM we had this week (first family woooooo woooo!), bringing someone a panini at the hospital, and shaving someone's eyebrows (Hna. G can take the credit for that one. Who knew that shaving eyebrows is a thing? Apparently it is).  There are cakes to be made and french fries to be cut and eyebrows to be shaved, my friends. And we will shave those eyebrows. One hairy Nicaraguan woman at a time.

I'm watching the guy whose computer screen is in front of me, and he's been Facebook stalking for a good hour now.  It's a strange world we live in, but we all do it.  I think one of the surprises about being here is just how much I haven't missed social media.  Ah, he has now switched from Facebooking to googling bald men with tattoos. That, however, is something I miss very much.  Take away my phone, take away Facebook, but I miss being able to say, "I'm gonna google it." Not necessarily bald men with tats, but, you know what I mean. Hna. G pronounces Google "goog-lay," which I think is hilarious.

I'm starting off this new and probably last change in Leon feeling sort of . . . pensive. I want to give this last change all I've got. In about a week or two, I will have completed 6 months in the mission. It's surreal, honestly, how fast the time is going. Before I know it, I'll have 9 months and be halfway through...and then a year . . . and then . . . boom. Over. I don't know if I'm going to extend yet or not, but I'm definitely thinking about it. 

I think one of the things I love most about being a missionary is the sheer amount of people we get to know. Sure, the majority of them don't end up having any interest in coming to church with us, but it's neat to know that there isn't any casa that is "off-limits." If we want to talk to someone, we do it. And the cool thing is, the majority of the people we talk to will just invite us inside. I know and love Leon so much more than if I had just passed by for a day or two, seen the Cathedrals, and left. I know who lives where and what they think about God, what they want out of life, what their troubles are, and what makes them happy. It's been interesting to me to see, the longer I'm here, just how many people I've gotten the chance to know.

I had dreams two nights ago about going on a run listening to my iPod; as silly as it is, that's one of the simple joys in life I miss most.

But mostly I just want to write about guinea pigs and miracles, in that order.

We are teaching the most amazing family right now named Nady and Javier.  Nady is Luis's cousin, and to describe her simply, she is the personified version of sunshine. She is so sweet and genuine and bubbly, and her house is like a little zoo. She's pretty young and petite (27), and I think she might not be able to have children, which is why she keeps so many little animals around. She has various pelts of different animals strung on the walls of her house and the skin of a boa constrictor, a tiny little chick that sleeps with her and her husband in their bed, a gigantic iguana named Stanley (whose tail is taller than me), a dog, and, my favorite, a guinea pig named Lula.  For those of you who know me really well, you know that I've had guinea pigs pretty much my entire life--my dad once dubbed himself "the guinea pig farmer." I don't remember all of their names (when  I was younger we cycled through new guinea pigs much faster . . .) . . . but holding Lula brought me back to White Sarah and Black Sarah, Flower Bob (Bob was just Bob until Bob had babies . . . and then became Flower Bob, haha), Candy and Michael (which happened to be the names of my dad's bosses at the time), Scar, Skittles (who erred on the incestuous side, unfortunately), Cuddlebug, and lastly, BB and Oreo, who lived to be 7 years old. I cried like a baby when they died in high school.

Anyway, there's the guinea pig part.

And here's the miracle: Our first lesson with Nady was so long and jumbled I figured she probably wouldn't want to meet with us again, but we left her a copy of the Book of Mormon and that was that, I didn't think anything of it. Her husband, Javier, is a genius. He doesn't look anything at all like I imagined he would (he's probably a good 20 years older than she is), but after seeing them together more, they get it (one of those opposites attract kind of deals). He has like 3 PhDs in medical forensics and forensic psychology, and he's a surgeon and has a degree in computer engineering as well. He also has as huge mustache, big thick rimmed glasses and kind eyes. He loves Nady more than anything else in the world. She is, in his words, his "angel," and I find I must agree. She is one of the sweetest people I think I have ever met. What I love about him too is that for as smart as he is, he isn't cocky. Just really humble and just as faithful as his wife is.

We didn't meet Javier for weeks, because he's almost always on call for work and catching him at home is a bit of a miracle. But, my mission is all about miracles, as I am finding, and we had one with the two of them this week.

We stopped by Tuesday morning for Nady because she got our number from Luis and told us to come over to answer her questions about the terrible lesson we taught her, and so, excited to have someone actually want to talk to us, we went.  When we arrived she had the Book of Mormon on her lap and I casually asked her, "So, what part are you reading right now?" expecting the same old, "Oh, the Introduction," or the first chapter of Nephi, or "I'm sorry I just didn't have time," when, to my surprise, she responded, "All of it." I was kind of slow and figured I was just misunderstanding and so asked excitedly, "All of 1st Nephi?? Really??" and she said, "No, I read all of it. I finished it last week. I've been waiting for you to stop by again to talk about it."  I couldn't believe it. She read the entire Book of Mormon in two weeks!! And after talking with her about it, she not only believes it's true, but has invited her husband to start reading it, and they both want to be baptized! If that isn't a miracle, I don't know what it is.

Their baptismal date is the for the 8th of March. I think Javier might smoke and that might set us back a week or two, but I have no doubt in my mind that they are going to be baptized. We found out that same night when we were able to finally catch Javier at home that Nady was actually ostracized from the Christian church she had been visiting all her life, because she began dating Javier and the pastor assumed that because he was so much older than her that the relationship was wrong and they were living in sin. But he was wrong, and they weren't.  They are both faithful people and didn't live together until after marriage, but the pastor didn't believe them, and in front of the entire congregation called her a harlot and told her to never come back. I think my jaw dropped open when she told us that, because it is honestly one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Picture the sweetest, most innocent person you know, and imagine the humiliation of being cast out of the church you've been faithfully attending your entire life because of a prideful and deranged pastor. I can't even comprehend it. That being said, I believe it was part of God's plan. While we were teaching them, Javier said, "We've been waiting for something like this." Nady is an angel, and she was cast out of her church because she was being prepared to find something better. It is all truly a miracle, one I can't even pretend to take credit for.

The family we baptized this week, Hugo and Yesenia, are happy and preparing to go through the temple. Although I don't know them as well as I do some of the other people we are teaching, it was so neat to see Hugo (after 8 years of being less active) dress up in white to baptize and later confirm his wife. She cried and said that for the first time in 8 years, she knew that she would be with her family for forever.  More than anything, that's the point of why I'm here--to bring people to the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that they can truly know for themselves that death is not the end--la muerte no es el fin. Families are everything to God's plan, and I want to find those who are ready and searching for the truth.

Hna. G and I have a goal to baptize every week this change, and we're going to do it.  

I'm happy, I love you all, we're not teaching Julio Blanco anymore (better luck next time, buddy), I miss naps, and I'll write you another novel next Monday.

Keep being great and know that you're in my prayers,

Les quiero!

<3 Hna. Behan

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