Hola mi familia y mis amigos,
Woohoo...no more white companions :) My new companion is Elder Curbelo from Uruguay and he is a stud in it's purest definition. He is the only missionary from Uruguay in our mission (which is over 200 missionaries) and we've had an incredible first week together.
And to greet us this first week we've had a huge snow storm and then very cold temperatues (in the teens and single digits). Utah isn't supposed to get that cold.
So I wanted to tell you all about what happens after someone gets baptized. There are four families that I'll write about in chonological order. I could write just about the super happy fairy tale endings ones, but that would be pointless to paint a perfect picture that would just get shattered later on.
1. Mario Hernandez
Mario was the first person I baptized on my mission. He is a little over 20 years old. When my first companion found him, he was athiest, a very nice guy who wants a family to take care of, loved to work, loved to drink, and loved talking with us. For a month, he prayed, went to church, read from the scriptures, and felt the huge difference the Gospel was making in his life, so he decided to be baptized. A week after his baptism, another member of his group was baptized. A week or so later, all of them got a phone call from their "patron" (boss) called and said they had one day to make it to Illinois to start their new work site there. We didn't even get to say a real bye.
A month later I called Mario and asked how everything going in Illinois. He said they were all happy and working hard but that the closest church was 45 minutes away and they didn't have enough gas money to make it. So they just read the scriptures together on Sundays. I jokingly asked him if he was dating anyone and he said no. Then he explained why he wasn't. He explained that he wanted to only date people who were members of our Church so that he could be married in an eternal family in the Temple.
A week later I tried calling back but his number had been disconnected.
2. The Rodriguez Family
This was the first and probably biggest family that I'll teach on my mission. It was two sisters with their total of 7 kids (five of whom were old enough to be baptized). We loved teaching them. It was crazy (as you can probably imagine in a house of 7 children under 16 years of age) but so much fun. One of the sons had been in gangs before he met us but got out of all of that. The daugthers all decided they wanted to serve missions and go to BYU.
Two weeks after their baptism they stopped going to church. A few weeks after that the son got back into his gang. A few weeks after that he was involved in a shooting outside his house. A few weeks later the whole family was evicted. I havne't been able to get in touch with them since.
3. The Ochoa Familya (Lilia and her children: Ana, Ismael, Eduardo, Miranda, Alex)
Talk about amazing families. When I met them, Lilia was a struggling but incredible single mom with five kids between the ages of 19 and 2. She worked delivering newspapers from 3 to 10 each morning. She was Catholic and a loved her Church, but her kids didn't. At all. The only reason she was even talking with us in the first place was because her best friend has invited her to our church once and her kids had loved it. As we taught them their lives began to change. They seemed happier. Their house was more peaceful. That isn't to say their lives became perfect, but they were happier.
We're not at about their six month mark as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Lilia is now in the leadership (which is called a Presidency) of the youth group for teenage girls (which is called Young Womens) in the congregation she goes to. Ismael blesses the sacrament (bread and water) each and every Sunday because there aren't many other young men to do it. Eduardo passes the sacrament to the congregation each Sunday. Miranda is still her sweet angel self, and Alex...well....Alex is still a little crazy 3 year old child who listens to no one but his mom. Ana, the 19 year old daughter who wasn't baptized with her family, has gone to church a few times since their baptism. Lilia's mom comes on occasion and Lilia has been able to share the Gospel with some of her friends and other family members. Both Eduardo and Ismael have gone to the Temple on youth trips and Lilia is going to go for the first time in a few months.
Lynette is the college aged girl who was baptized about a month ago. We're teaching one of her best friends and she has a list of 10 other people who she wants to invite to church (both familiy members and friends). She wants to go the Temple soon with some of her friends and has thought about serving a mission (with a lot (A LOT) of insistence from us). She is planning on going to BYU (woot woot) and is just so happy.
Take these examples for what you will. But what I've learned is that those who follow the Gospel faithfully will always be happyier. I know that as we follow Christ we will find a peace amoungst the chaos around us. If you want to know more about any of these families just shoot me a letter and I'd love to tell you more.