Thursday, October 27, 2011
October 24, 2011
A pretty normal normal week this week. Real good, but real normal. The picture is of lots of the Elders Quorum of our ward just after finishing digging a bathroom hole for the Familia Acuña. The house behind us the the Familia Acuñas house (the one where I always eat bad meat that makes me sick). The Acuña family just got baptized, and now they are the superstars of the ward and everybody loves them. Francisco is a really outgoing, charismatic guy, and within his first three times going to church, he had the whole ward in love with him.
In the Longchamps ward not many of the members want to do activities, service, or help with the missionary effort. As a result, the ward has an insane number of inactive people. There are 700 people on the Lonchamps record, of which about 70-100 are active. People usually get baptized and have two friends in the church...the missionaries. As soon as the missionaries are transferred, the new members would go inactivate without any support from the ward. Needless to say, there has been a pretty bad pattern established here in Longchamps. When the members of a ward don't help, it's pretty tough to have any success. Right when Elder Oporto and I got here, we did our very best to animate the members and more than anything, establish a really good relationship with the Bishop (Bishop Godoy, farthest left standing up in the picture). At first we didn't have any success at all, and lots of the members gave us the cold shoulder. When Elder Borgersen came and we started baptizing more and more people, the ward started to trust us more and more, and we started to ask them to do more and more things. For about five straight Saturday mornings, we and lots of the elders from the ward have been digging the familia Acuña a bathroom, and the ward has really rallied around them and these activities. Now, the members of the Longchamps ward are beginning to be the most active and helpful members. More and more inactive members, who have not been to church for years are returning to church and loving it. We are receiving more referrals to teach friends of the members than we can handle. There is almost a line of people waiting to help us with teaching. Longchamps has turned 180 degrees and it's way too good. It all started with the baptism of the Acuña family.
This week we had lots of miracles. We have been teaching a man named Oscar for about 6 weeks. He is 26 years old. He is the youngest of 16! He was born in the villa (ghetto), and in his own words, "was raised by the street". From 14-23 years old he was totally addicted to crack and in general has had a pretty crazy life. He has scars all over his body from different fights he has been in. We found Oscar while standing outside of one of the Members houses, trying to talk ourselves into the house, (they were giving us the cold shoulder and wouldn't let us in) when Oscar walked by and asked us, "Hey, are you the guys with the Book of Mormon, or is that somebody else?" We were initially pretty scared to talk to him because he looks like the typical pibe who tries to rob us everyday. I just told him yeah and asked him why and he pulled an old kind of the Book of Mormon out of his backpack (light blue with an Angel Moroni on it) and told us that he was looking through his Mom's old things and had read a little part. We made an appointment to come to his house a few days later to talk about it. It ended up that he lives in the house of a member who had been inactive for 20+ years and that his Mom had been a really active member of the church before she died when Oscar was really little. He started to tell us that he read a little bit of the book and then started to feel a heat in his chest and it scared him, so he hid the book back into the box. A few days later, he decided to try to read it again. When he started to read, he felt the same heat, but this time it didn't scare him, it made him cry. All he wanted to know was why he had felt what he had. Over the last few weeks, we have been teaching Oscar all we could and letting him know that this feeling he feels when he reads the Book of Mormon is a confirmation that what he is reading is right and true. It was pretty hard for him to accept that explanation because he has about zero religious background and doesn't really understand what/who God is. So we have been teaching very slowly, basically, and clearly to help him understand. He has progressed so much, and it was so good, but he still lacked something. Oscar has a pretty tough time expressing himself and letting us know what he is thinking. Because of this, we have had a really hard time figuring out what he needed to know in order to get baptized. He knew it was all true, but something was holding him back. It was super frustrating for me to almost probe him to remove the doubt that was hindering him. The other night one of the 23 year old kids in our ward, who is getting ready to head out on his mission, invited Oscar to go to a church dance. I was foolishly kind of irritated at the kid because Oscar is very timid and I have seen what a Mormon dance is for a timid person, yet alone a timid investigator: torture. I thought we were about to loose Oscar for sure. The morning after the dance, Oscar called me and said, "Elders, we have to talk." I thought, "Well, that's it. We lost him. He wants to talk because he was horrified by the other worldly atmosphere of a Mormon dance and now doesn't want any more to do with us." I was so so wrong, and never more happy to be it. We got to Oscars house and he ran out of the house and gave me a big, lingering hug and said, "How about the 6th of November?" He was obviously referring to a baptismal date and I shook him off me and shouted "¿Que?!" right in his face. It ended up that everyone at the dance was super nice to him and he loved it. The way the members of the church treated him with such respect and love stood in stark contrast from what he was used to in the streets of the Villas, and it was the best thing in the world for him. All Oscar needed was to know what kind of change the church can bring him, and he found that in the behavior and example of the members of the church. Needless to say, I cried. Like every other moment in my mission. Now we are preparing to baptize Carlos on the 6th of November. The inactive family that Oscar lives with are activating to, with the help and encouragement of Oscar.
The way we behave and express ourselves is always sending a message about what the church is, and what it can do for us to the people that are watching. Sometimes we don't know how far a little bit of kindness and respect can go. Be nice to investigators. Give them hugs when they come to church. Let them know how happy the church makes you. This is the best way we can help the missionary effort. I once heard a quote that I really liked about sharing the gospel, "Don't waste words trying to convince people what the gospel can do for them, spend your time showing them what it has done for you."