It was so nice to talk to you all last Tuesday. It felt so unreal after not seeing everyone for about 7 months. I'm still laughing at the fact that mom had three pages of questions ready to ask. And of course she wrote it in permanent marker on printer paper like she always does. That made me happy to see. And I'm glad Pete still feels at home in our house. I remember when he used to stand outside our front door to connect to our Internet so he could download things quicker. Now he's already a part of the family. Thanks for telling me that you guys are going skiing. I'll be missing it like crazy over here in the heat. The closest thing we got to snow came yesterday. It hailed (sp?) like it never has before here in Águas Lindas. Luckily, during the storm, the whole ward was having a big lunch together and we were all safe inside the church. Speaking of, this storm was another one of those "coincidences" you see every day on a mission. There were many investigators and less actives at this lunch event and they would have left sooner if it weren't for the storm. Because it was raining like crazy, no one could leave, and we (the 4 missionaries of the ward) had a chance to have great teaching opportunities and conversations with those people. I continue to love the openness of the people I meet. As a missionary, it's not rare to get stopped on the street by someone and have a deep, nourishing conversation with someone you don't know. I like the fact that people speak what is, and they don't pretend. For example, if someone is fat, they describe them as fat. That's a harsh example (although true), but because of this cultural norm, people are more open about their beliefs and--at least in my experience--more true to themselves. It's so easy to get to know people and to open up to them. I've noticed that here family and friends take precedence over the things that normally crowd our lives with triviality, which I like a lot.
This week something crazy happened. A lady, Isabel, whom we met just a week ago, died of heart problems 3 days ago. We passed by on Saturday to talk to her but chairs were set up in the yard and her friends and family were there. They were preparing some kind of funeral service. It was shocking because we had no idea she had health problems. We had planned on teaching her that day but instead found her friends and family there. We told them that we had met her that week and had come to share a message with her. We explained what we do and asked if we could pass by later and share a message about life after death. They said we could come back in a week. The most poignant feeling from that experience comes from the memory that I had prayed the night before to know who we should visit and what we should teach. I hadn't even thought about visiting Isabel until I had prayed and asked for guidance. Maybe it didn't make a different that we passed by exactly that day instead of any other day to talk with her friends and family that were united there, but it's humbling to know that one prompting led to a potential opportunity to share the wonderful message of the plan of salvation to people that are in the midst of sadness and confusion about why things like this happen. It's not an exaggeration to say that prayer is a conversation. The Book of Mormon and words of the prophet and apostles teach us how God responds to our earnest, prayerful requests. Upon studying the resources we have been given and applying them, our prayers will become infinitely more meaningful and useful. They will become less of a checklist of petitions and more of a conversation with a loving Heavenly Father. They will create our days instead of completing our days. They will guide and accompany our daily actions instead of following them.
Every day is a testimony builder in some way or another. And often I don't realize that until I start to say what I have learned. Even the burning sun and crazy rain storms have many things to teach us. No two days are the same, so every day has something different to teach. It's such a cool thing to finally realize.
Well! Have a wonderful Dad's New Year and drink some sparkling grape juice for me! I hope life is dandy.
Elder Bryce Young