April 22 2013- Email #40
Dear family and friends,
Another week has passed us by and with it many miracles have been seen, many strange experiences have been… well… experienced, and many people have heard the Gospel preached. I am doing really well and I had a really great week. I am still super stressed…but who isn’t during their missions right? If I wasn’t stressed I would feel guilty for not caring enough! I suppose I will share some experiences from this past week.
Starting with today…we had a really awesome P-Day. We had the opportunity to go with the first counselor to the Stake President (Presidente Valdez my good friend from Pajapita) to his banana plantations. President Valdez is the owner of Del Monte banana plantations…the largest producing banana platation in Central America. He has some of his banana plantations in Tecun Umon which is really close to the beach in Ocos which we also visited. The tour of the banana plantation was very impressive. Every banana I eat for the rest of my life I will remember the arduous process that the workers at the plantation I visited go through. We actually got to participate in the whole process and I got some really cool video of the process. I was thinking the whole time “Dad would have LOVED this!”. It was quite the tour because really no one ever has the opportunity to go and see where the fruit we eat in the United States really comes from. It is quite interesting.
After the bananas we went to the beach in Ocos, Guatemala and got to hang out for the afternoon. President Valdez (obviously extremely rich) has a beach house out there and had lunch all prepared for us. The Stake Presidency paid the tab because we baptized over 35 in our zone last month. Ocos was really cool. The waves were beautiful and we played football for a few hours but it was SO hot. We are not exactly allowed to swim…so we could not exactly cool off very easily! But it was a great great P-Day. I really enjoyed it and definitely will not forget it. I feel blessed for the beautiful area of the world in which I am serving.
Also kind of a crazy story…I was doing divisions with the Zone Leaders on Thursday and we were hungry so we went out and about to find some dinner after we had gotten home. The only thing still open at 11:00 at night in Guatemala are street tacos stands…Haha they were actually pretty good. The only interesting twist to the story is that the lady selling also was selling tacos of cow head meat and brain…. Yeah I ate it. I could not just pass up the experience to try and see what cow brain tastes like! It was more or less… Would I do it again? Probably not. Am I happy I did it? Well… I am still not sick so I suppose yes, yes I am happy I did it.
We met this crazy drunk man in the street this week who started telling us that he used to be an Elder. This story is really dark for me. I almost do not want to tell it… anyways, the man told us how he was a missionary in the mission north of Guatemala and that he even had been the Assistant to the Mission President for the last half of his mission. I sort of did not believe him but he mentioned President Garcia who also served in that mission as Assistant to the President. He then started to cry and told us how much he hated himself and how he had made covenants in the temple. He told us that he had no home, no family, no money, and was absolutely miserable. He started screaming “Elder Russell HELP ME! I made covenants with God in the temple!!”. I have never felt such a thrill of coldness in the middle of the day in Guatemala. In his eyes I saw such pain and suffering. We promptly left and left him with a water and the only thing we could give…the counsel to…well.. stop drinking. It really affected me that day. I thought about him all day and the horrible fall he had experienced. I called President Garcia to ask about him and President Garcia told me he had been his companion. He was one of the most excellent missionaries he ever knew but had stolen money from the company he worked for about 12 years ago. From then on he started drinking and now lives in the streets. Super sad story. Really gave me a testimony of the importance of enduring to the end. That man lost it all for what? Alcohol.
We also had a wonderful baptism this past Saturday! His name is Ivan and is the son of our cook. He is 20 years old and is going to be a great member of the church. We have been teaching him for about 3 weeks now and he loves the church! He is a little bit timid and is not exactly one to read and study the scriptures much, but he definitely understands the restoration. When he was baptized it was amazing the see his response as he came out of the water. He sort of gasped for air and had a look of pure joy on his face. He bore his testimony after and said how he felt such a liberating feeling as he took on the waters of baptism. It was a special experience.
Well folks, that about wraps it up. My week was pretty great and I am loving life right now. The opportunity to wear this name tag that also bears the name of Jesus Christ is an experience I will never forget. Although one day I will have to take it off my chest, I will never take it off of my heart. Enduring to the end is my goal and should be the goal of each and every one of us. Keep strong to the faith my loved ones. I am trying my best to make you all proud!