In no moment am I more sure that this mission is particularly for me than when we are sloshing through mud to get to an appointment. It feels like I am fulfilling all of my greatest dreams all at once, in that magical moment between one house and another, especially when we're in one of the more remote, undeveloped barrios, especially when we're coming from a particularly spiritual chat and really witnessing a hastening of the work.
The sky is a quiet white blanket of ambient light....distilling into tiny atomized raindrops that coat us. The only sound is the steady clop-clop-clop of our too-big boots hitting our calves or sloshing into deep puddles, and the toads crying in the distance (they make a baby-crying sound..it is very human-like). We just slip and slide from barrio to barrio, two gangly figures dressed like Easter eggs.
Yesterday was the fourth straight day of rain, and all the hours of mud-licious mudsloshing which that implies. Sometimes it's been all I can do not to burst out and shout to the sky with glee. We've been grateful for the cooler weather (Hair-mana Beecher calls it Oregon weather...55 farenheit with a wet wind).....grateful for the change in pace (the rubber boot-laden human body moves 35% slower through mud than when under normal conditions, yet works 20% harder...)
I am very awfully grateful in general. It is, as Dieter F. Uchtdorf says, "not a gratitude of lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind." Our area carries on quite well. One pair of Elders got transferred to Corrientes, so we got some new ones. One from Utah ("la fabrica de misioneros" ["The Missionary Factory"]) and the other from Bolivia. A new sister arrived in the other district, making me realize I'm not new anymore (!!!!) We've found some amazing people this week. For example, one time we knocked on a door and met the cleaning lady, who lives in a different barrio that's still in our area, so she gave us her address. But as we were walking away, the man who lived in that house ran outside into the rain and stopped us and said essentially "I never thought you would come!!! The Mormon missionaries taught me 15 years ago but I was never baptized. I remember the peace I felt and the way it changed my world, and I want you to come by every week and teach my family." He has a wife and 3 kids who are 8, 10 and 13, and they are all lovelies. Getting to know them.
Val & Co. are doing marvelous. She's started to realize what a gem Basilio is, all he does for her every day, and they are all being really grateful for each other and building each other up. We've discovered that Dora loves coming to activities and being involved in events, and that's been helping her a lot to adjust gracefully. She goes to everything:workshops, meetings, the English class we missionaries teach every week. Everything.
It's stunning to see recent converts help new investigators/converts (which I should be over by now, since virtually everyone in the ward is a convert). But man, having Hugo come to a discussion with an investigator this week, he had so much to share, we couldn't help but feel proud of him. When you're new, building up the people who are even newer is one of the best ways to shed your newness (i.e.: receiving the new missionaries this week was swell).
I do not know why, but my planner smells like yerba mate. Every time I flip it open, the smell wafts up from the pages and draws a single tear from my eye. One tear from each eye. And then the moment is mercifully wiped from my memory until it happens again. (Cut to me sitting next to a woman on a bus. She pours hot water out of a thermos into a tiny silver mate and offers it to me. I politely decline, putting my hand up, "Soy alérgica," ["I'm allergic"] I say with a faint smile.)
In all my excitement last week I failed to mention that the reason we had a multi-zona was to hear from Elder Nuñez, a church general authority from Chile. He had a heartfelt message and I found it very inspiring. Alma 29:1-2.....verses that make our hearts soar.
Life is good, lots of mud-buckets full of love to you all, talk to you next week!
[From letter to family:]
It's amazing how fast the Lord will change you when you're willing to change...and when you have the privilege of being called on a mission and already speaking the language, and when it's the best mission on Earth with the best president, and the place and conditions I would have chosen to go to if I had had the choice. The best part about my first transfer [six weeks] was realizing I didn't need to see an angel or have some dramatic 180-degree-turnaround conversion, because the second I got here I realized I already had a testimony. I already felt strongly about the Restoration and I already knew God loved me. The rest was just filling in the gaps.
Everything gets clearer for me every day, and I'm not afraid of completing this mission, nor do I dread coming home like most of the missionaries do, because the gospel is true ALWAYS, and God loves us ALWAYS, and I know that this work, as marvelous and glorious as it is (and it IS), is just preparing me for the rest of my life. The inner strength and peace that God has given me out here is something I don't even think I thought was possible. I'm forever grateful for everything that led to me getting out here, because looking back, once it started happening, it all happened so fast. I can't deny that God was just waiting to get me to this mission on the fast track as soon as I dragged my sorry self to the start line.