¡Hola familia y amigos!
This email is going to be really long. So, prepare yourselves.
Actually, all of my letters are long, so, it won't really be that different for you. Anyway. Moving on.
There. Is. So. Much. Dust. Here. Right. Now.
I swept three times in our house yesterday, and when I woke up this morning, there was so much dust my flip flops left footprints on the floor. It's disgusting. And we live on the third floor with a less than effective ceiling (yeah . . . we might as well just take the ceiling off all together. Make it easier for our pet pigeons to enter), so it's even worse. Renewed respect for those who survived the Dust Bowl, that is for sure.
Also, I ate shark this week! It was a baby shark, too. :( I know, I'm a terrible person. But it was actually really good (just kind of a more lean fish), and I would eat it again. I have no idea how Iris (the lovely woman who makes our food) was able to bring us a shark (I told her I wanted to try it . . . and it might just be illegal in Guatemala . . .), but who's asking questions?
Those two paragraphs were completely inundated with parentheses. Not even sorry about it.
But let's just get to the good stuff, shall we? TRANSFERS. We knew this day would come . . . the day I would leave the place of my birth, the beloved Leon, and leave for other adventures in the lovely land of Nicaragua . . . drum roll, please . . . (Ahem), I'm going to CORINTO!!! Every single person I know who has served there has absolutely loved it. It's not actually that far away from Leon and it's actually part of the Zone in Chinandega (ha, no surprise there. I knew I would be going to Chinandega in one form or other), but if I had to go to Chinandega, this would have been the area I would have chosen. It's literally right on the beach and is apart from the city, and we get to eat lunch every day overlooking the ocean. The Chapel is only two blocks away from the Pacific, and for scripture study in the morning, you can just go outside and sit in the sand and read. Does that even sound real??? Apparently the people there are all super relaxed and positive and happy, and Chinandega as a Zone baptized five families this last month. It's also apparently hotter, and I'm going to die. But apart from that fact, I'm ready to go. I know how to work, I'm going to work, and even though I don't know who Hermana Lopez is (my new companion), she doesn't have a choice, we're going to be awesome and "hechar fuego," as they say here ("throw fire").
Leaving Leon I have too many thoughts to even write here, but I'll mention a few of them. Including the miracle we had this week (my mission is one of miracles, as I'm finding).
I don't believe in coincidences, but I do believe in God's hand in our lives. Three nights ago we happened to run into Roger and Patricia (his fiance--he opted to get married instead of a mission. Bummer, but they're awesome together so I'm not too sad about it) in the street walking back from a lesson that fell through. We were halfway covered in shadow and halfway dimly illuminated by the artificial butter-yellow of the street lights above our heads. Rosita proposed that we share a scripture together before parting ways, so we all sat down on the street corner and began to read together and talk.
Well, lessons with Roger are never just "lessons," and this was no exception. We talked about Roger, and the change he's had since his baptism, and their impending marriage on April 12th . . . and about being sealed for eternity in the temple. And hearing Patricia say (yes, the same Patricia who was angry at Roger for being baptized into a church that was "worse than she thought,"), "I have felt more happiness in the time that I have visited your church than I have my entire life as a Catholic," I felt prompted to invite her to be baptized. And wouldn't you know it, but she said yes.
My invitation was for the 18th of April, the week after the wedding, but Rosita shut that idea down right away and said, "No. She's ready to be baptized this Monday." We were all silent and I'm pretty sure Roger was about to have a heart attack (because this is what he's always wanted but never thought would happen), and then she agreed to that, as well. I really love Patricia and I feel like I was put here just to meet her. She is getting baptized today at 6 o'clock so I can be there before I leave tomorrow for Corinto.
It's crazy little moments like that that make the mission worth it. Sitting on a street corner talking about eternity. I can't even take the credit for the miracle baptism we'll be having today, because it was all Rosita. I haven't really done her justice in my emails, to be honest. Saying goodbye to her will be one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever had. She's kind of like . . . a pineapple. Not really the affectionate type, sassy and sharp tongued and kind of prickly in personality, but then you earn her trust and get to know her and she's one of the sweetest, most genuine and loving people you've ever met. To be honest I don't know that I would have loved Leon as much as I did if it wasn't for Rosita. She's practically been serving another 6 month mini mission with us because she literally goes out teaching with us every single day (I feel like she's been my companion since day one). It was hard saying goodbye to Najarro, but saying goodbye to Rosita will be. . .heartbreaking. After an entire day together yesterday, I just had to hug her close and she hugged me back. I believe I said, "Eso es tan injusto." It almost isn't fair. It isn't fair to be able to love someone so much knowing full well that you have to leave them behind. Move on. Keep living.
Sitting on a park bench in Guadalupe with Rosita or walking down a long dusty road under the stars, talking about our lives and families and the heavens and God are moments I can never forget. I pinky swore that I would come back one day, and I have every intention of doing so. Rosita is one of those people I feel like I knew before this life, and who I know I will know after.
Looking at her yesterday after our final day of working together, I tried to imagine what it will be like when we're both old . . . our kids growing up, involved in our lives. Will I even talk to Rosita anymore? The truth is I don't know. But those moments when we are young and connect with someone on a level that is so beyond the superficial . . . those are the moments that make us immortal. And I, or a version of me, the ghost of me, perhaps, will always be sitting cross-legged on a street corner in Leon, sitting with the girl who made Leon beautiful and welcoming to me, and the boy me made me feel that I wasn't a failure as a missionary . . . whose soon to be wife accepted and loved me as easily as he did. A part of me will never leave that street corner.
As a military brat, I've had my fair share of goodbyes, but not even one of them will compare to how hard it will be to say goodbye to the people here in Leon.
More than anything I find I can't wait for heaven. I'm in no rush to die . . . I just know that it will be so much more than my finite mind can even imagine. You know that feeling you get when you see someone you haven't seen in years? The happiness you feel and the sudden surge of joyful memories that flood your mind? I think heaven will be that feeling, but without an ending. It almost scares me, to be honest, but I do not know who I am. I don't mean Cara Behan the person or Hermana Behan the missionary. I mean me. This soul who existed before this life and fought to be here. Who did I know? what was I like? What did I want and yearn for and expect from my time on earth? When we die and the veil is lifted, just how shocking will it be to us to discover all of the things about ourselves that we've always been but never known?
The truth is, we can never afford to depreciate the price of a human soul, ours or someone else's. It doesn't matter if they live in a mansion or inside four pegs of wood and tarp, they're all our brothers and sisters, who fought to be here as much as we did. I'm reminded of the story of a man walking along the beach (ha, the beach, where I'm going. See what I did there?), throwing starfish back into the ocean. After high tide, thousands of starfish were left strewn on the sand, and most would die (drying out or picked up by seagulls), if not put into contact with the ocean water again. Another man, after watching the man throwing starfish back into the sea patiently and methodically for a few hours, approached him and said, "Why do you bother? There are so many starfish here that you're not even making a difference." The other man paused, bent down, and threw another starfish back into the sea. "It made a difference to that one."
Sometimes I feel like I'm just throwing starfish. I don't know even 1/3 of the people who live in Leon, and not even the tiniest fraction of the people who live in this world. In the grand scheme of things, I can do very little and am no one. But if I have the chance to save even 3 or 4 "starfish" in this life . . . it's worth it. It's not a world-changing impact, but it's an impact all the same. And maybe if we all decided that the little efforts that we make in this to do good are worth it we would see a grand change in the world at large.
This work is urgent. The seagulls are on the prowl and the sun is merciless . . . and if we aren't making the effort to save our brothers and sisters who are in our own little circles of life and tide pools . . . who will?
I have miles to run and things to see and do and people to meet and sharks to eat. And at the end of it all, I'll be sitting on a tiny little airplane leaving Nicaragua . . . and coming back home and leaving home at the same time. In the meantime, I'm going to keep patiently and methodically trying to make a difference.
Today I say goodbye to Roger and Patricia and Rosita and Iris, but in the end, any goodbye we have is just a "see you later" for eternity. Or that's how I'm choosing to look at it.
Les quiero a todos. Do something this week to make a difference in someone else's life, won't you?
<3 Hna. Caribbean (another beach reference. See what I did there?)