Goodness gracious it is strange that I only have about six months left until I go back to the old lone star state. One of the most common phrases that missionaries who are getting ready to go home say is that it didn't seem like two years. And I can attest to that! In no way shape or form does it feel like I've been here for a year and a half. I wish I would have known from the beginning that two years back home does not in fact equal two years on the mission. I'd say it equals about a year. My advice to missionaries who are preparing to go out is this: don't worry about the time. Serve your mission as best you can, not thinking about the homecoming which to you seems like will never arrive. Just give it all you got, and by the time you remember that there is indeed a homecoming waiting for you, you'll be close to the end.
Anyways, this week was really somethin' special. So many things happened that I literally have not the time to write about it all. If I was more diligent about writing in my journal then maybe I could recount all of these things to you, but I only have time for two stories.
We were waiting on a somewhat elderly woman to begin a time with a family that lives close to a neighborhood practically full of members. We were all sitting around, making small talk to pass the time until the grandmother of the family would arrive. Finally I saw her face out of one of the small holes in the wall that act as 'windows' for the hut. I called to her and asked if she would be able to attend our appointment. She said that she was on her way, but first she'd have to put away all of her chickens and wares from the day. I volunteered us and the rest of the people in the house to helping her out for a bit. Scampering, running, and shuffling along, the many varied members of our little group went outside and began the chicken hunt.
All of the chickens had gotten out of their pens and were heading for the hills! Everyone spread out and was chasing after them, trying to herd them back to their outside pens and then transfer them to the house. Jumping, and diving, the chickens flew around the road, trying to evade us. The whole neighborhood was outside at the moment, so it was really quite to show to see all these people running around with a couple of gangly white-guys-running-like-chickens-with-their-heads-cut-off - pun intended. My tactic was to chase the chickens to the shore of the poo-river which runs through our area and leap at them before they got over their fear of water and went for a swim. I was uniformly unsuccessful in my attempts. I swear that some of those chickens were really ninjas disguised as poultry. I've never seen a feathered-friend move so fast on land. After a short and crazy period of time, we had conquered all of the chickens but three. Seeing that these guys were by far the most skillful of all, we split up into three main groups and went after 'em.
Somehow, despite our miserable efforts at catching the chickens before, Elder Nash and I ended up in a group by ourselves. Using the tactic which had already proved ineffective before - so why we used it again I have no idea - we chased the d'Artagnan of the three musketeers to the shore of the river once more. Like a raptor he stooped and ran, hurdling children, baskets, and white guys. Finally though, we had him cornered. Standing on the edge of a of a perilous ledge, a full six feet above the rushing waters of the poo river, the roue had met his match. On one side was the river, the death that awaited him there. On his right was the battle-proven Elder Nash, his sweet bag from Mexico swaying at his side, word of his chicken-catching fame having already spread to even the ears of this young, fool-hardy d'Artagnan. And on his left was the fumbling, red-faced-as-a-tomato Elder Cryer.
The chicken faked to the right, then to the left, side-flipping over the swiping hands of Elder Nash. Having thrown himself a bit too wildly, he hovered out over the thundering waves, beating his wings ferociously. Finally pulling himself around and back to the ledge, the trap had been laid, set, and sprung. Waiting for his lofty return were the grasping, yet patient hands of one Elder Cryer.
The next story I have to share it most certainly not one of adventure, intrigue, or happiness. Walking back from one of our later appointments and going to our final lesson of the day, we were stopped in a very dark alleyway by a man and a little boy. The man called out to us, begging us to heal the boy for his head was hurting very badly. I asked what the problem was and the man said, "His head is exploding." Alarmed, I pulled out our cell phone and shined it over the boys scalp. What I saw shocked me and prompted me to take the man and boy with us to a place that had more light. As we walked towards a lamp that lit up a railroad track, I asked the man if the boy had a severe sun-burn. He said no and began the describe how the illness had come about. Finally standing in the lighted area, we were able to give the boys head a closer inspection. In our minds at least - we saw what looked to be a pox. I talked with the parents about how the illness was acting in the boys body, a frightening virus.
After seeing the boys blisters and lesions under our cell-phone light, I instantly began praying for inspiration on what we should do. The Spirit very srongly seemed clear - a blessing of comfort and peace for the boy and the family as a whole seemed like the best thing. After talking with the people for some time we told the family that we would bless the boy, we were just going to give a folded arms-type blessing, but then Elder Nash felt strongly that I should put my hands on the sides of the boy's shoulders. Feeling the secure nudge from the Spirit to follow his guidance, I did it. What followed was one of the most Spirit-filled blessings I've ever personally heard or given, and also the saddest. I almost began to cry during the blessing. The Lord assured them that everything would be alright, and that whatever was to come was indeed the Lord's will. Then I blessed him that he would feel no pain and suffering as the coming events related to his illness unfolded in his life. And that was that.
Elder Nash and I are uncertain about the state of the boy and his family, and even his entire neighborhood, but we are not filled with hope. We just keep moving on and telling everyone in our area to wash their hands, stay clean. Elder Nash and I are totally ok and have not contracted a virus and have both gotten our immunizations.
Well, sorry to end this email on such a sad note. I feel like the thing we should take from this is the fact that we are in the Lord's hands. That boy was only six years old, so I know he could not have placed himself in the path of such a horrible trial by his own actions. Little children are swallowed up in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and are sinless. Whatever happens to us is the Lord's will. If you are doing what God has asked you to do, then there is never any need to fear or despair. Maybe it won't be comfortable, maybe it won't be what you wanted to happen, and you may not know the reason for it.
I'm sure next week will prove to be pretty plain and I'll have nothing to write but my testimony next Monday.
Anyways, it was fantastic to hear from you and I can't wait to talk to you
guys on Mother's Day. Next week I'll be sure to give you all of the
information for the call.
I love you guys and pray for you often. Stay safe...