Friday, October 31, 2014

GREATEST WEEK EVER - The Heavens are NOT Sealed!

October 30, 2014


The Heavens are not sealed!

The famous saying, “Things are not always what they seem…” describes the perception of the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by others who may not be members of the church – and in this case the perceptions in the wonderful country of Ecuador.  Looking at Mormons from afar there are a few crazy ideas.  Many believe there are restrictions in our church on dancing and singing.  (Maybe they went to a one of our church dances one time…you know, the ones where everyone just awkwardly stands there because no one wants to ask you to dance?  But don’t let the church dances fool you - we are allowed to dance and also sing - have you heard of Alex Boye?!)

Then comes the belief that we send “spies” (the missionaries) all around the world to see how others live and send a report to Barak Obama.  Huh?  And the best one of all, that Familia Jara heard, is that for every baptism, as missionaries we get paid $4 million dollars!!!  Haha if only… the life as a missionary is poor. :)  Gregorio has joked with us ALL week asking when our money will be sent to us…Oh Gregorio what a funny guy!  Sadly the 4 million dollars is not true… because then the “Family of Gold” could be true in every sense. :) 

But really, it isn’t sad because truly we are EXTREMELY FELIZ [HAPPY]!!!!  Por Que [Why]?!  Gregorio, Wendy, Leslie, Luis Gonzalo y Gregory were BAPTIZED on Saturday October 25th!!!!!! :)  Que Felicidad, no?! [What happiness, no?!]  The day of their baptism was truly a day that I will never forget and a beautiful witness that the heavens are indeed open.  I testify that the heavens are NOT sealed.

Well to start off, the Jara Family has not fallen into "Mormon time" yet so they were all pressed, dressed, and ready to impress a whole hour and a half before the baptism service. 

La Familia Jara
From L to R; Maria Jose, Luis Gonzalo, Wendy, Gregory (with glasses), Gregorio, and Leslie
Maria Jose did not get baptized with the family, but will join them soon!
They are already counting down the days until their temple sealing! #FamiliesAreForever

They were just so excited! Also, they each invited ALL of their close friends and family members. Even young Gregory invited his 10 year-old neighborhood friend who was told by his parents that we are not a church, but now loves church and wants to get baptized as well. Basically everyone and their dog came to the baptismal service. There were about 70 people there, FULL of PERSONAS [PEOPLE]!

Front: Hermana Perez, Hermana B, Leslie, Gregory
Back: Maria Jose, Luis Gonzalo, Wendy, Gregorio, Adela (Gregorio's mom)

While Wendy greeted all the ladies from the ward, who have passed through her home over the years lovingly inviting her to come to church, they all shared tears of joy that she had come to know the church is true.  Every single person in attendance was touched as we witnessed each one of the family enter the waters of baptism.  The best was when Leslie came up out of the water.  Her face wrinkled from smiling so big, and not knowing what to do, she did a little dance on her toes, just like I did when I received my mission call to come and find her and her beautiful family.

They were just GLOWING!  Gregory told me he wants to get baptized every day so that he can feel the indescribable joy everyday!  He was a little sad when we responded that he couldn’t – but he now looks forward to taking the sacrament each week so he can remember this incredible day.  Wendy bore her solemn testimony that she knows the church is true and can’t wait to get sealed in the temple to her family.  She also gave the closing prayer perfectly!  This indescribable day of joy and change of taking upon the countenance of Christ will always be one of my favorite days in my mission. 

The next day in Sacrament Meeting, as a newly united family, they walked up in their beautiful new church clothes to be confirmed members of the Church and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Gregory’s wish was granted, as he was promised in his confirmation blessing that he would serve a full time mission and…will one day become a BISHOP!  We knew he was a special kid. :)  As new members of the church they are SO excited to become member missionaries.  This family… Les Amo [I Love Them]!

Before I go any further, I don’t know if I’ve explained who is related to who in their family.  Gregorio’s mother is Adela de la Paz and she has two children – Gregorio and Esdrina.  Adela is a very active member of the church.  She has served in the church as a temple missionary, is now a temple worker, and has faithfully attended church for 20 years.  Adela’s husband never attended or joined the church.  He always said, “I was born a Catholic and will die Catholic.”  He tragically was murdered about 15 years ago.  A year after his death, Adela had all of his ordinance work, including baptism, completed for him in the temple.  Adela had always hoped that he had accepted the gospel, and that hope was changed into a full testimony and knowledge on the 25th of October.    

So on Sunday night, Esdrina sent us the greatest text message you can receive as a missionary… “Hola Hermanas.  I know it is late but I just wanted to tell you that I want you to prepare me to get Baptized!!!”  Ahhh, is this real life?!?!  She didn’t ever want to get baptized – ever, ever, ever! 

The next day we went to their house, so curious as to what changed Esdrina’s mind.  She began by explaining the change she has seen in her brother’s family.  As she saw this, she started listening to the hymns throughout the day and always felt something special.  She stayed up the night before (Sunday) watching the church video on the Restoration and told us how she received a confirmation that the church is true.  She also watched all of the Joseph Smith movie and in detail gave us a re-cap (haha she is so cute) and then tearfully shared the following story…

Esdrina noticed that her daughter Karen was silently crying in her room after the baptism.  As a loving mother, she entered into the room to see what was wrong.  Karen recounted to her mom how during her uncle’s baptism she saw her Grandpa.  Esdrina was confused…“but he passed away many years ago, how could you have seen him?”  Karen explained, “No, Mom.  I saw him.  He was standing in the font with Gregorio.  He was happy Mom, he couldn’t stop smiling.” 

The spirit flooded the room and prompted me to tell them that indeed the Heavens are open and that their husband, father and grandpa HAD accepted the baptism and other ordinance work done for him in the temple and he was just as proud of his son and his family.  I am a firm believer that there was a party up in Heaven in honor of this incredible family. 

My dear family, I know, I know, I KNOW that our loved ones who have passed on are ever close to us.  They love us and rejoice with us when we are keeping the commandments and striving to become like our older Brother, even Jesus Christ.  Ahh! The Church is true.

And if this week couldn’t get any better - Wendy, Leslie, and Karen were able to go to the temple in Guayaquil and perform baptisms for the dead.  They were SO happy when they entered the doors of the temple.  The boys weren’t able to participate yet because they need to be ordained to the priesthood first.  So they walked around the temple and wanted to buy everything in the church distribution store next to the temple - well mainly Gregorio who now has a new Bible, hymn book, primary song book, and much more!! :) 

Temple Day!

I love the temple!  We also did an endowment session together as the 4 missionaries in this sector – me, Hermana Perez, Hermana Rodriguez, and Hermana Yurt.  Hermana Rodriquez will be finishing her mission soon and she shared with me her testimony and many special experiences from her mission.  The mission goes by so quickly - I can’t believe that I have completed 8 months already.  What?!?!

Now onto why I wasn’t able to write to all you lovely people on Monday.  Our Mission President called us on Monday morning with the assignment to translate for a humanitarian group from the States.  As a bit of background, the humanitarian arm of the church, called LDS Charities, has a wheelchair program where they strive to improve mobility, health, and educational opportunities for people with physical disabilities.  They have given wheelchairs to those in need throughout all the world.  Ecuador specifically has received many of these wheelchairs, but they break, no one is trained in how to fix them.  So a group from the States came down to train someone from each province of Ecuador how to fix wheel chairs and to start their own companies. 

My companion and I went to the main church building on Kennedy Street in Guayaquil, Monday through Wednesday from 8 am to 3 pm each day, to translate for the humanitarian team.  So guess what?   I now know how to fix a wheel chair and explain it to someone in Spanish! 

One man, that was chosen to represent the area of Guayaquil, lost his oldest son to MS in January.  Translating his story into English for the humanitarian team almost brought me to tears as he expressed his sorrows of losing his child.  Oh, and when he showed us pictures…I lost it.  He is such a loving father and is dedicated in helping those fathers who have disabled children understand how they are just like us, and the disability is only in your head.  He is making a bicycle that will hook up to his wheel chair so he can ride his bike with his son.  It’s so cool! 

Some other pictures of the AMAZING people I met and worked with this week:

Sergio and Kevin
Kevin is from the States and reminds me so much of Uncle KEVIN.  Humor and all!  Sergio is from Guayquil and is PILISIMA [Handy or hard working?] in the work shop! 

Greg and Juan Pablo
Greg, he was super sarcastic and we needed to sensor some of the translations sometimes...haha good times!  Juan Pablo works for a group that helps teach families with children that have disabilities how to have a better experience.  I wrote down all of his info so that I can come and visit and maybe work with special needs kids down here after the mission!!!! AHH that would be the greatest right?!

Hna Perez, Hna B, and Kathy
Kathy is from Utah, is allergic to gluten like me, :) and served a mission in Thailand!  SHE IS AMAZING!!!!  It was so hard saying goodbye to someone you got so close to in 3 days...I am really going to struggle saying goodbye to people I have know for almost 2 years. 

Ignacio with his youngest son, David, who reminds me so much of CHASE from high school!   

Each one of those who entered the program realized, hey Mormons aren't spies, they can dance and sing, they aren't paid $4 million dollars for each baptism.  We are just here to serve!  I realized why the prophet is always talks about serving others.  Because truly that is what the gospel is about - service.  We are here to serve others and help them come back to the presence of our Heavenly Father.  We are not alone.  There are angels that will be on our right and left guiding us by each prayer of faith. 

The heavens are not sealed.  May we each become the angels in others’ lives and be quick to follow the Spirit and to listen to our own guardian angels.  And of course #rejoiceevermore!!

Love you all,

Hermana Bartholomew

No comments:

Post a Comment