Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Keep Them Fires Burning!

Bridge to Corrientes--from the bus window.

This week I traveled many hours and slept in various buses in order to go to Corrientes to sign a piece of paper. This is called "trámites" [paperwork]. You know you're going to be doing trámites when you get "the phone call". Someone in the office calls you, they congratulate you on being great, and then they congratulate you that you are going to do trámites the next day. I did trámites 2 weeks ago in Resistencia and now a week ago in Corrientes. My feelings towards these two cities are very distinct; these two cities have two very distinct flavors.
Corrientes is very European and dreamy.
Resistencia is still the city of my dreams, however.

We have been discovering something remarkable here in Italia Centro. If as missionaries it is our job to kindle new fires, or to start fires of "testimony" in people who may not have previously heard about the Restoration, or who didn't understand it, then we want to get everything as warm and blazing as possible. Trying to set something on fire all by itself is hard. By this I mean clapping at a stranger's gate, telling them about the Gospel and asking them to sustain this new flame when it is still so new and may not have an environment that can sustain it. It can be a frightful thing. We don't want to stop finding new people, but we don't want to create artificial growth either. Numbers are a great gauge, I've learned that, but what are they gauging?

We have found that our calling as missionaries is principally to kindle new fires, but how do we achieve that? Well, I just said it I think. We stop trying to start tiny little isolated flames-- we need kindling. A lot of people in this area have been baptized but have been long forgotten at church, and the church has been long forgotten in their lives. So we're thinking these people--their faith--is going to be our kindling.

Looking people up, asking around, taking advantage of the fact that Hermana Beecher has been here since November and thus has many more details about the area than the average missionary has at their disposal. We have been finding these people, and seeing that their faith is anything but dead. These people are in the daily fight--living day by day and being buffeted by considerable health complications, emotional problems, economic disadvantages, what have you. Very few of them have forgotten that they have a Father in Heaven. Very few of them are beyond listening and feeling the spirit and sharing their stories. I take this as a great sign. I know these people's faith might be too weak to get them to go to church on Sunday or to get them to let go of an old grudge. But are these people spiritually dead? They are not. I love these people. I was these people. We've learned to stop trying to convince them we have all the answers, and stop trying to "correct" them by telling them what they're doing wrong and then telling them how to fix it. We come to help them to remember who to trust first. And we don't do it with any particular programmed series of lessons, but we do start to do it with the word of God, and with prayer, and with feeling the spirit, and letting it do its work.

So these so-called menos-activos are waking up, and they know they are waking up, and they are friends with the investigators we are teaching, so now they are taking our investigators to church.

A few days ago we came up to the house of a very beloved 42-year-old-member Natalia, but we had come that day to talk to her parents. Her mom was sitting outside drinking mate, and we started to tell her about a man we've been teaching. We thought her husband might have worked with him. She said yes, they know each other. We told her we wanted her husband to come sit by this man in church next Sunday. She leaned her head back and laughed out loud, then collected herself all at once and looked back at us with a serious expression. "Why don't you ask him yourself?" She went inside, a few minutes later he came outside, and through the gate he told us about his career with the Coast Guard and the Navy, how he had traveled the world, and how he met this man. He looked at us and said "I haven't been to the chapel in a long time...but I'll come next Sunday to sit with my friend."
He went inside and called the man that very day.

As Arcade Fire says, "keep them fires burning"!
Hermana Tolman

And the Apontes family!!! They are a pretty big family--this is the mom Cristina, dad Pablo and daughter-in-law Cynthia. Their kids are all baptized but all living with non-member partners. These are the BEST people, we go by at least once a week, and they have offered us shelter from more than one torrential rainstorm. We were there last night doing a family night sort of thing. More of them than usual were there, and we sort of tricked them into teaching us the lesson. Everyone had something to contribute. Their sons, although they don't go to church right now, remember a lot, and when it was their turn they realized how many of the answers they knew. We laughed a lot, which is really the only thing you can do with a group where 2 of the grandkids were flying around us like crazy. And then Pablo went last, and his topic was baptism, and everyone got quiet, and this man who hasn't been to church in 15 years started talking about when Christ was baptized. He said that as children of God we all have the right to be baptized and start over, and how baptism is a time when you look at all your previous life--all the bad and all the good, and you let it go. You start working towards something new.  



More Corrientes including one of the
1983759832097 San Martin statues in Argentina
Tree in a plaza in Corrientes.

Corrientes Tree
A very sweet Hermana from Guatemala in Corrientes

And then this is me and Hermana Puente.
She is from Campeche, Mexico! She has a sister
who lives in Merida, so she goes to Merida often.
This is her first transfer here.
She stayed with us for a couple days.

Miryan (an investigator we have been teaching for a few weeks) decorates for parties, and it was her granddaughters 4th birthday on Sunday. She transformed this tiny cement room that separates all these rented rooms into this majestic Rapunzel wonderland. It was impressive--she has craftsmanship in every tiny detail without losing the overall effect. All done by hand with mostly inexpensive and recyclable materials. We've been seeing her working on this during all last week and so can attest to the fact that she does it all painstakingly by hand.

25 de Mayo - Revolution Day, which marked the beginning of
the revolution against Spain in 1810. No school, all the kids had "actos" in the plaza
(singing, dancing,reenactments) and everyone ate or sold
or sold and ate locro. This crazy soup.

Walking on Revolution Day

The street where we live.
(and a nice propaganda face to finish off.)

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