Monday, April 23, 2012

Week 16 in Sonsonate

Subject:  Have you ever had a caviar garnish?

I feel like this week was a little bit quieter as far as events go, but it was good because it has helped me to see a few things that I need to change and fix as a missionary. That's always a pretty important thing, right? I think so.

Just for a little background, I'm going to attach a picture. That's a map of Sonsonate, and most of what's in the image is my area, although there is a little that's not. But my area does extend north beyond the screen. The point is, our house is point A. The chapel is point C. It takes us fifteen minutes or so to walk to the chapel, which is a lot longer than I've ever had to walk to a chapel before. Generally the missionaries live pretty close to it. But after seeing that that is a fifteen minute walk, look all the way up there to point B. That's where most of our investigators live. It's the Lomas del Muerto, and it takes us fifteen minutes or so to walk to the base of it, and then another 15 minutes or so to climb up it. That means that we have to head all the way up there and then down to the church (the route I've highlighted) to invite people to church. Round-trip, it's about an hour and a half of just walking. That's not terrible for us, since we can handle it, but the hour that it takes those investigators to walk from there to the church (since they walk much slower than we do) has proven to be too much. Even though a bunch of those investigators were progressing a bit, it looks like getting them to church is just not working. That means that we have decided to just about completely drop the Diaz family, the Campos family, Josue, Juan Carlos, and a couple news that we had found there. That may seem a little harsh, but teaching people who can't or don't come to church basically wastes our time, which might be okay if we were in a difficult country, but there are too many people ready to hear the gospel here, so we have to move on.

Also, just so you don't get the wrong idea, we wouldn't have dropped them if they had been progressing really well. All of them have kind of died down a bit, except for the husband in the Campos family. He's still reading and such. But the only interactions he's had with the church are the temple trip and one week of church, where they happened to talk about baptisms for the dead in every meeting. So he's had some pretty hard times accepting that. We finally helped him understand it a little bit better, but he can't get baptized because his wife straight-out refuses to marry him. We even went with Elder Gillette (my ZL) and Elder Alvarado (an AP) to try to talk her into it, but she kept on ignoring us and just walking away. Seriously, there were a couple times where Elder Alvarado would be talking directly to her and she would see someone out on the street and just leave the house to go say hi to them. And then she'd try to go visit somebody else, so Elder Alvarado and Elder Gillette would literally chase after her until she agreed to come back and talk just for a couple minutes. So she'd come back, and go into a different room and not come out. It was very frustrating, and very rude, and very much tells us that, as positive as the husband is, he's not getting married any time soon.
Mauricio is the next positive one that we have. He lives in the colonia 14 de diciembre, which you should be able to find on the map. It's a better location, much nicer neighborhood, and he lives in one of the nicest houses I've seen in my mission. I think the only one that beats it is that time we went to teach an American at a member's house (also American). Both worked at the US Embassy, and were at least filthy rich in comparison. And they gave us pizza. That was a great night. Brian, who is reading this as well, should remember it. Good times, right? Man, I miss doing divisions with that kid.

Anyway, Mauricio is very smart and understands things very well. It's like a breath of fresh air, since it's been a very, very long time since I've taught someone that doesn't forget what we taught five seconds after we move to a new subject. He even has come up with his own conclusions, and works them into what we teach. For example, he already knows that the Catholics did not have the authority to baptize him, nor did they do it correctly. He told us that baptism is a promise between man and God, so it can't be done as a baby. There should be a specific age set for baptism to make sure that people are ready and understand it. That's the kind of stuff he reasons for himself, and seriously I cannot express the contrast that that is to most of the other people we teach, especially those who live in much humbler settings. My worry, though, as I may have mentioned before, is that he is going to want to know everything before getting baptized. As all of us who have been raised in the church know, it takes a very, very long time to learn everything. We're not exactly sure how long, since I'm pretty sure that none of us have done it yet. That's why humbler people get baptized so much quicker. They don't (or in some cases, can't) rely on logic and knowledge to understand the doctrine, so they go by what they feel. Why would that work so well? Well, it's kind of the point of it all. As the scriptures point out, to be learned is good, but only if we humble ourselves and submit to the will of God.

So the bottom line is that we had only one investigator at church, and she was a new that is a reference from two RMs that just got back, who are brothers, who both left and returned on the same day. We'll probably be doing divisions with them sometime, since they still have that mission-ness to them. I hope I have that when I get back.
There you go. We need to find new investigators, and ones that live closer to the church. It'll be a little bit rougher, since the areas around the church are either much richer areas (as rich as Sonsonate gets, that is), or businesses. Not ideal for contacting. Oh well. That's why we don't do it by ourselves. There's a third-party that we get to help us that is a lot better at finding and convincing people. Who is he? Oh, no body. He's no body. Get it? 'Cause he's a ghost! And a rather Holy one, at that. (I mean the Holy Ghost, for all of you scratching your heads back home. Gosh!)

I have actually been thinking a lot about the topic of repentance, which was really interesting because it fits perfectly with something that Dad sent me this week. Anyway, I was thinking about it a lot because I've wanted to understand what it is a little bit more and how it differs in our beliefs from other peoples'. Mostly that's because every time I think I've ever taught repentance to someone and then challenged them to repent of their sins they just say, "Oh, I repent every night, so I already do that." That's a hard thing to correct, of course, because I don't want to tell them that they haven't actually been repenting, but that's the way it is. So I realized something. Repentance, as the world sees it, is just changing from a bad person to a good person. More often, actually, it involves just saying "forgive me" in a prayer, and you're set. The single biggest difference between our church and the rest is Priesthood authority, so how does that work into repentance? Well, quite simply: We are the only church in the world with the authority to baptize and administer the sacrament, which are the ordinances that must be performed by a person to complete their repentance. We use the example a lot of cleaning a shirt. Here, of course, they do it by hand in a giant stone basin. Step one to washing the shirt is to get a bunch of soap and scrub it like crazy. That's the repentance, or at least the first part. It's the scrubbing to make the shirt clean. But the repentance is not complete until you rinse the shirt of by pouring a bunch of water on it. Obviously, lots of water represents baptism (or the sacrament if one has already been baptized). Repentance without baptism or taking the sacrament with the proper authority is not repentance. So one might say that repentance to the rest of the world means saying you're sorry and changing, but in the Gospel of Jesus Christ we know that the cleansing power of the Atonement must be applied not just through change, but through covenants.

That's just a few thoughts I've had over the last few weeks. I don't know if it made much sense to you all (or you're probably wondering why it took me so long to reach that conclusion), but it's been good for me to think a lot more about these principles. It's amazing how much I could have told anyone about any of the principles of the gospel before the mission, but out here I've started to get a depth of understanding for those principles that is really hard to describe. It's awesome, said simply.

I hope you all have a great week! This week I got emails from Julie, Lindsay (and Nicole, but both were business, so that's kind of cheating... JKBS), Stacey, Mom, Dad, President Cordon, the APs, Brian (Oliverson), Jairo (Huaman), and Elder Packard. 16 emails. Not a bad haul. Thanks again for those emails and for the support you guys give me while I'm out here!

Elder David Arrington

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