Aw man, you guys. I just love reading you. You all have the best souls and hearts. You make me want to be better and more selfless and good. Words are so insufficient to express my gratitude and love for you. It goes past my heart and down into, like, the center of my being.
It´s so cool how we are all involved in building our own corner of Zion right now. I love hearing your stories of how that building is happening in your lives.
This week felt like forever. It took some endurance. But there were a lot of happy moments and holy experiences. Holy is the word. Like, sometimes I´m baffled by how as a missionary you sometimes spend a supercharged hour teaching Simone how to pray (she prayed out loud this week!), and then half an hour later you are making fart jokes at Nelma´s house, and then later your are walking down the street and the smell of alcohol mixed with urine mixed with cigarette smoke makes you want to throw up, and somehow it is all holy.
Can I tell you about one of the best things that happened this week? There is this dear old lady named Maria Manuela who lives on a street we sometimes walk and is always standing at her window. We´ve had a few conversations with her, during which she always tries to invite us in, but she goes into her house to come and open the door for us, passes the door, and goes down to this other door a little further down, which she is never able to get open. It´s really pretty funny. Anyway, this week we were talking to her, and Sister W started teaching about the restoration. She pulled out the Restoration pamphlet and asked, "Senhora, can you read?" (a lot of people here can´t, including Maria Manuela as it turns out). "No worries, we´ll just use the pictures." So Sister W starts using the pictures to explain the restoration. Suddenly, a light goes on in Maria Manuela´s head and she says something like, "Oh, I have one of those already!", and shuffles around her living room for a while. She comes back to the window with what we are expecting to be a Watchtower from the JW´s, but when she pulls it out, it turns out to be .... a catalog from LIDL, the local department store! She lovingly turns the pages, sharing all the pretty pictures with us. HA! I was just so surprised, and it was just so sweet and funny, that I looked at the ground and tried to suppress my delight. But alas, a sort of muffled laugh-cough came out, after which Sister W patted my shoulder and said "Bless you! (then to Maria Manuela) Sorry, my colleague has a bit of a cold!" Which pretty much just made me laugh harder, and I had to actually turn around for a while. Dear, sweet Maria Manuela wasn´t offended, and just kind of smiled and laughed a little bit with us. Ah, this life. Holy is the word.
We need to find more people to teach. Pray! We´re going to spend less time at Nelma´s and more time on the streets! We taught a really awesome woman named Soraia yesterday. She´s just happy, and light-filled, and looking for truth. I´m excited about her.
Simone. We watched The Testaments with her this week. The next day, she said, "At the end of that movie, it said He was going to come again."
"Yes, that´s right."
"When?", so much longing in her eyes, "Why not now?" She is teaching me eons. And it´s amazing to watch her faith in Christ growing. Hearing her pray for the first time this week was really neat. And I got to play my violin for her!! She loooooved it. So fun. But her family situation is so bad. She´s worried that Paul is abusive to Carolina (their daughter), and is just totally paralyzed by fear of him. It´s ugly. Really really ugly and unfair. She´s leaving for Germany this week to go to a special hospital, where I´m hoping she´ll get the help she needs for her mental health, and will stop smoking. We don´t know exactly when she´ll come back, but I hope we are able to continue teaching her, and that some of the horrid circumstances can be resolved so that she can start really moving forward.
Nelma is teaching me about discipleship. She was going to start getting financial/food help from the church, but when she found out that meant that she wouldn´t be able to feed the missionaries, she said No Way. She actually washed and massaged our feet this week. She´s incredible. And she does this all by herself. I so wish she could have a loving, supportive husband to support her and help raise those 3 awesome boys. Urgh! A lot of men in Portugal are real losers.
Yesterday/ this week I was struck by just how amazing God´s creations -- His children -- are. We talked to this African man in a park and I was looking at his arm and just couldn´t believe how smooth and dark black and beautiful it was. That sounds weird. But I mean, like, God created that beautiful, dark, rich skin. And then yesterday there was Soraia´s bright-souled smile, and after her we visited Eguimar and Preciuese. Turns out they are separating. Eguimar is leaving for New Zealand this week. But standing in the doorway, with his hand gently on little Gabriel´s head (seriously, the most adorable 4 year old Brazilian/African mixed kid with dreadlocks. Pinnacle of cuteness.), he was just beautiful. And Preciuese has this low, kind of earthy, gravelly, smooth voice. These people are magnificent to behold. It is such a singular blessing to be yanked out of Provo and over into a corner of Zion where God can remind you how awesome and diverse and many-faced His glory is.
Nate!! Your letter was really inspiring for me. I´m so glad you are doing so great!
Sheesh! Words can´t say anything. I am so grateful for you all. Enjoy your trip to Cali! sounds like a blast. And big congrats to Dad. Woo! Take lots of pictures in your ridiculous graduation garb.
All of my heart. All of it.