Back to back divisions this week just about killed me. I was all day Thursday with a DARLING Hermana from El Salvador. She's just about to complete 2 years as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Her whole family is against her being here on the mission and they write her every week telling her to come home. I asked her how she responds to that,
"Well at least they write me now! Before they didn't."
"What do you tell them?" I asked
"I tell them no" she laughed.
"Im not coming home until I've finished this journey." she said with a smile.
We walked around all day long in the BLAZING sun and NO ONE was home. Well they were home, but they told us they were busy, or that they weren't home, or another day would be better. We probably walked about a million and one miles and climbed ten jillion hills. What I really wanted to do was just be whiny and negative and complain for a good while but as a capacitadora (sister training leader) its my job to be an example - to animate and show my little companion for the day how fun and wonderful the mission is despite the circumstances.
So I slapped on a smile and kept walking. We talked and we laughed and we SWEATED. I learned ten times more from that darling little sister from El Salvador than she could've even learned from me.
The next morning we met up with other sisters and did divisiones AGAIN. This time I was with a tiny Bolivian. She's very serious. And I adore her. I finally got her to open up a little bit and we laughed and laughed. We talked about our dreams and goals. About our life stories. And about the gospel.
At the beginning of the day I was exhausted from the previous day of little to no success in the blazing sun and was feeling less than thrilled to have to put on a big smile and keep fighting, but God was listening. He's really good at that. He heard the sunburnt white girl in the south of Mexico and he sent her péople who were home and the energy to smile and enjoy the day with the darling serious Bolivian.
So ever since my Mexicans have found out that I play the Ukulele I've been asked to play and sing in just about every venue. For the Missionary Christmas Activity we had a mini show, and one of the sisters in the mission wrote a song about becoming like Christ and about 20 minutes before we went on she sang it to me. I picked out a few chords, learned the harmony and the words, and we played it in front of a TON of missionaries. It actually turned out really cool. Someday I'll be posting the video on Facebook.
THE BEST GIFT
On Saturday we gathered together as a very LARGE group of missionaries to have Christmas. We ate turkey and mashed potatoes and a SALAD. Yes my friends, my first legit salad in almost a year.
Then we played some Christmas games and laughed so hard we cried. Then we had a Christmas show in which various elders beat-boxed, I played the uke, and we did a rendition of the 12 days of Christmas, missionary style. So classic. Then we had a devotional.
A bunch of different missionaries from a bunch of different countries got up and talked about how Christmas is done where they live. It was actually really fun to hear all the traditions, like burning a giant dummy dressed in people clothes and waking up at 4 in the morning to sing and dance with your neighbors.
Then Hermana Madsen (the president's wife) talked about traditions that they did in their family. All the talk of family turned everybody a bit weepy, but in a good way. She bore powerful testimony of how someday we will have our own family and how we are going to be the ones setting traditions and making memories. It was really beautiful. Then Pres talked about Christ and got us crying some more.
Then came time for presents. Pres dressed up like Santa and started handing out the packages. I got several and tore them open immediately. Everyone was over the top thrilled and it was like Christmas morning...but not on Christmas and not in the morning...
As we took pictures and opened boxes and shared food and candy, some one came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder.
"Hey Hermana, is your mom's name Julie?"
"Um ya! How did you know?" I responded a little surprised by the question.
"Did she send a package to another sister here on the mission?"
"I think she mentioned something about sending a package to another missionary, but I don't really remember..." I trailed off.
"Hermana," she said grabbing my hand and looking me right in the eyes, "that Hermana that recieved a package from your mom is the daughter of Jehovahs Witnesses. This is her first Christmas. That package is likely the first Christmas gift she has ever received."
I just stood there, soaking in what she just said.
"Tell her thank you Hermana. Please tell your mom thank you." she said with tears in her eyes.
I looked around trying to find the Hermana she was talking about when she walked up behind me and asked, "Is this you, Hermana Matesen?"
She held up a picture of my people. My very favorite people in the whole entire world, dressed up like shepherds and sheep and Mary and Joseph.
"Is this your family?" she asked.
"That," I responded, "That is my family."
Then the tears came. Big fat tears rolling down my face.
We hugged. And we held on tight.
"Gracias." she sobbed.
"They love you," I told her."and I love you too."
We just held one another and cried for a good long while.
Then this darling sister explained to me that she didn't think she was going to be receiving any sort of package or present that year, but the package that my mom sent was the greatest surprise she had ever received.
Out of all the sweets, books, and cool pens I received that day - despite all the delicious food and the hilarious show, the very best gift was to hold that little sister from Chile and wish her a very merry FIRST Christmas.
Oh how very thankful I am for a mother who taught me from day ONE to serve. To love. To give. I'm not sure who told my mom about the tiny missionary from Chile who wasn't going to get a package, but I'm sure glad someone did. Because that moment we shared was one I will never ever forget. Her very first Christmas. And likely, her very first present. How proud I was to point to that tiny picture and choke out between the tears,
"Estas son mis personas. Esta es mi familia"
Out of all the gifts I have ever received, the greatest is my family.
Julie, Brett, Meredith, and Max. My people.
Every person I teach I show a picture of my family, and I name them by name. I tell them that God loves us so much He sent us here in groups, to learn to love, to serve, and to forgive. I tell them that, thanks to those 4 people, I'm in the south of Mexico. I tell them that the gospel of Jesus Christ has changed us and helped us for the better and that they can change their family and turn it into something that lasts forever.
This Christmas, tell your family you love them. And give them all a very big hug. No matter how dysfunctional they may be. They are yours. And you are theirs. Learn from their mistakes. Forgive. Listen. Love.
[3 photos did not download]
*me and mexican santa (my zone leader)
*found a friendly butterfly this week