Hola Hola! Como estan todos?
We have had quite the roller coaster week here in the good old barrio Union. It's been one of those mission-changing, perspective-changing, heart-changing weeks. It was filled with ups and downs and all-arounds, but really I just want to talk about one special family.
Once upon a time about two months ago, my companion and I had an appointment fall through on the very edge of our area but for whatever the reason, something brought us to the very opposite side of our area to knock doors (that something was the spirit, by the way). The first door we knocked was this special house. Juana answered. She let us in and told us that she had seen us in the park that day contacting and hoped that we would find our way to her house. She was an old investigator, loved the church, had read the entire Book of Mormon, had children and other family members that were members (less actives), but had never been baptized herself. She told us of her desires to be baptized and change the bad habits of her life so that she could once again be close to God (golden, right?). Well over the last couple of months, she has had several baptismal dates, but nothing has stuck.
Great success we HAVE had, however, in this home has been in reactivating and rescuing her 27 year old niece, Jessica. SHE. IS. INCREDIBLE. But just wait, there are about 30 more people that live in this special, tiny, makeshift home. Many have been in and out of prison, many are alcoholics, and the majority don't want to listen to the great message of the gospel, but there are a group of 6 or 7 little children that are present for every lesson. Now, in our mission, we don't teach, work with, or baptize anyone under the age of 18. We search for families. But fortunately, working with Jessica and Juana makes this a family. How, Saulo (12), Sebastian (9), Jeffrey (9), Angel (8), Marjori (6), Nancy (5), and couple even littler, are attentive and listening in every lesson. In this house, we can't match these children up to parents. They're pretty much on their own. But that is why they just treasure the gospel so much. These kids are at church every Sunday now 15 minutes early. They read every pamphlet we leave. They are even starting the Book of Mormon! They each pray several times a day. They pray together. They love when we come for family home evenings with all of them to play games and teach each other! They may not be able to get baptized at this point, but they really are doing everything and more that the Father asks of them.
I have never had a stronger testimony that the gospel blesses families. This kind of love has never before been present in this home and these kids are eating it up! I love them as I do my own nieces and nephews. I love them as I know Heavenly Father loves them. As we sing hymns and talk of Christ, their lives have been changed, and so has mine.
OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. <3 Matthew 19:14
Until next week...
Camille asked that we also share her companion's letter home to add additional perspective and detail.
From Hermana Kennedy:
The brickwalls painted baby blue surround the plastic stools placed in a semi-circle facing a full sized bed that will lay 3 persons as soon as we finish our lesson and let them sleep. Juana and her son, Saulo, and her nephew of 9 years old listen. The small cutouts of the ´plan of salvation´ allow us to engage the little boys along with the grown-ups as we teach them. We place one more cutout down on the bed that we use as a table in attempts to continue teaching. We are interrumpted by a scream. The bedroom door is shut, but it was as if the sceram was right behind me. The 9 year old sitting on the bed in front of me closes his eyes. The woman screams for him again. This time he answers her. He shuts the door behind him. Tears fill our eyes as we hear the voice verbally destroy that precious little boy. Minutes pass and he comes back into the room. He listens. We pick up where we left off to allow the Spirit to slow his racing heart. As we finish he offers to say the closing prayer. He has a smile on his face, that only Christ himself could relate to. He closes his eyes. I close mine. I listen. He utters these words:
Please change my parents. Please. Please change them. Please help them to stop drinking. Please.
The door slams from the room adjacent to us. Silence falls and the spirit surrounds us. He continues:
Please bless Aunt Juana that she will be at our family home evening tomorrow. Help he go to church this Sunday with us. Help he go to church every Sunday with us. Bless the hermanas and bless my family.
He finished his prayer ´in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.´
Juan 14:14 The Lord will provide for him.
Matt 19:14 ´Suffer little children to come unto me: for such is the kingdom of heaven.´
He hears our prayers. He loves the children. He protects us in times of worry and doubt. My companion and I are the angels that protect him. Church is his refuge. God is his Savior and he knows he is blessed when he prays.
I hope you all remember to pray! I LOVE YOU ALL SO VERY MUCH!