I have an infinitely deep and wide well of things to say since last week, and a rather short half hour left in which to compose my thoughts. We´ll see how much I can summarize.
Born in the campo (country) to an American (a Utahn, to be specific), raised in the deep city by a Panamanian (I say deep city because it is very much city, but not nearly as nice as the city center). What a whirlwind. It still feels odd to be teaching lots of lessons after dark, since out in the campo most of the night appointments tended to be longer or to fall through because of a lack of power. We are very much in the city though--it´s super rare to see a building that isn´t at least 2 stories tall, and there are a lot of neighborhoods and houses crammed into the cracks between big buildings. I haven´t taken any pictures yet, but I couldn´t get them to you anyway because when we went to La Sirena (Walmart of the DR) I forgot to look for an SD reader, and we spent nearly all of our apoyo so we could have food, because ELDER M***** CAN COOK! I´ve been learning by watching a bit about cooking without measurements and such, since it is much easier to just buy fresh veggies and fruit, frozen meat, and pre-mixed seasoning than to try to keep flour, sugar, baking powder, etc. always in stock.
Anyhow, I can always add more about our physical status later. As for spiritually, I have felt a lot of things this week. Elder M***** is a MACHINE with the New Testament, from which we´ve been teaching most of our introductory and foundational lessons (at least, before introducing the Book of Mormon). His proficiency actually inspired me to start studying, not just reading, the New Testament and marking the heck out of it. To answer Jessica´s question, having been a dedicated student and learning good study/note-taking habits, as well as praying for general emptiness and clarity of mind before every study session (and praying after that I can remember everything I´ve studied) has massively contributed to my effectiveness as a missionary, and our unity as a companionship. As we´re teaching, maybe Elder M***** remembers a New Testament scripture that illustrates our point. The Spirit reminds me of a BoM scripture that affirms and/or clarifies said point. We can then not only testify to the truth of what we´re teaching, but also to the truth of the Book of Mormon, that it is another testament of Jesus Christ, and that it is written ¨unto the convincing of both Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God¨ (at least, I´m pretty sure that´s how Mormon words it in his explanation at the front--I´m translating from Spanish here, so bear with me). See, like that. I had no plans nor thought that I would think to mention nor remember that bit of the portada of the Book of Mormon, but the Spirit is bearing testimony through me. There´s another scripture I was just studying in Matthew 10 that goes something like that: basically, that ye are not they who speak unto thine accusers, but the Spirit of God which beareth testimony through you (again, I have that ringing in my ears in Spanish, but I don´t remember the english form, so the errors are ¨the errors of men; wherefore judge not the things of God¨ (again in the part before the introduction)).
Today we talked again with H****, who has apparently been an investigator for a median length of time. He goes to some kind of Metaphysical-Spiritual-
Revivalist something-or-other church, which has led to some interesting and rather deep conversations. Unfortunately, as we´ve tried to teach about the Book of Mormon, although he´s been willing to read it, I don´t think he´s been truly understanding the significance thereof. You see, H**** is of the persuasion of the literal interpretation of the first line of 2 Timothy 16, or in other words that basically anyone can claim to have seen an angel or had writings miraculously appear on a desk overnight and affirm that it must be from God and is therefore scripture. Thus, while he´s been open to reading the Book of Mormon, he has also been rather obstinate in his declarations about other books of scripture being true (like the Book of Life, the Revelation of George Washington, and many others). After he explained to us how Jesus never died and spent time in India recuperating before reappearing to his disciples, how Paul and Mary the mother of Jesus attained a perfection like unto Christ in this life and were thus translated, and how there were three human races on this Earth that lived perfectly before the imperfect race of Adam and Eve, we figured we needed to share about authority and prophets. After an hour and a half of discussion, we realized we were getting nowhere and ended the lesson. It saddens me to see how much confusion there is out in the world because of Satan´s continual game of ¨Two Truths and a Lie¨ amidst religious theory. Be ye warned. Christ set up his Church the way he did and made sure the Book of Mormon could testify and support the Bible so that we would not be ¨carried about by every wind of doctrine by the sleight of man, and cunning craftinesss, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.¨ (Eph. ). But, He does not intend to give us all knowledge without trials of our faith. That is why the Bible is imperfect (or at least partially) and why there is so much withheld from us in the Book of Mormon as well as with regard to so many things in this world which have happened, which will happen, and which need not yet be known: TO TRY OUR FAITH. Without a foundation of faith, (not as a belief, but as a principle of ACTION (James 2:17-18) we cannot come to know anything, nor can we become any better or more perfect, whole, or complete than we already are.
Love you all, and hope you´re all healthy in body as well as in Spirit,
He sent an additional email a couple minutes later...
Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving! Because that isn´t a thing out here, either. :(
I saw this email 3 minutes after it was sent so I took a chance an emailed him back with a few questions. One was why he was writing on Tuesday as opposed to Monday and the other was about a package I recently sent him. Here is his response...
I got the package; we had a surprise meeting for trainers and trainees, and I got it then. THANK YOU for EVERYTHING! Also, the Candy Cane Bark was a nice touch :) I wrote today because yesterday we had someone come by to see about buying the house we´re renting, and so we had to stay in extra, and then we went to the ONLY internet center in our area (or at least the closest--20 mins walking from the house), then waited 20 minutes for a computer to open up just so we could send in our weekly numbers and hurry out the door to our first appointment. Thus I wrote today.