Ah, wonderful people!!
I am so blessed by you.
I have so much I want to tell you about this week! It was possibly the most remarkable week of my mission so far.
Landmark: I filled my journal. I am sad; it was the perfect journal. Wayne's handwriting on the first page (a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, of course), little pocket-pages throughout to keep letters and bus tickets and things, tear-out pages. I am in search of a replacement. I'll find something good. But yeah. It just feels kind of SIGNIFICANT to have filled a whole book with thoughts and things I have learned and experienced. Life is cool.
Okay. I'll start with telling you about the divisions we did with the STL's on Wednesday. I went out with Sister Pieper. She was comps with Sister Warburton right before Sister Warburton trained me. Spending a day with her was INCREDIBLE. She felt like an instant friend. Watching her teach changed me. Like, she was a powerful channel of eternal truths personalized for the individuals with whom she was speaking. It taught me SO MUCH. And watching her do it for a day was enough to help me start to do it a little better on my own. It expanded my vision of who I can be as a missionary and how I can teach. It was exactly what I needed. She also told me some stories from her time with Sister Warburton that just warmed and lifted me. One of my favorite things she said was something like, "Holy cow, Sister Sandholtz, you are exactly like Sister Warburton. The way you hold yourself, how you address people in the street, the way you testify is similar. Sometimes I have to do a double take to make sure it's not her!" That just tickled me. Being compared to Sister Warburton is a huge huge compliment.
During our division we bumped into Camilo, a man Sister Austin and I had invited to church a while back. He explained why he couldn't come, and after conversing with him for a little bit he mentioned how he wants to stop smoking. Sister Pieper told him, "The best time to act is right now," and held out her hand for him to give her his box of cigarettes. (I was like, "wow!") He was kinda reticent, but then she said, "we are going to explain a few things and say a prayer, and then I am going to ask for the cigarettes again." We actually didnt even pray with him, but we got to know him a little better and she had him pick a number between 1 and 10. He picked 3. Okay, you stay with 3, she said, and he promptly gave her the rest of the box of cigarettes. "Don't you feel that?," she asked, "That liberation you just gave yourself? Doesn't it feel good?" This whole story seems almost silly or something but I wish you could have been there to see how truly empowering for him it was. We set up a return appointment.
So the next morning, Sister Austin and I covered his box of cigarettes with pictures of Christ and filled it with rolled up papers with scriptures on them in place of cigarettes. We walked the 1.5 hour uphill trek to his house (through my favorite part of our area, Arrifes. I LOVE IT, it's so pastoral) and found him. He was there waiting for us. We pulled out the scripture cigarette box and gave it to him. He was extremely touched. He told us he hadn't smoked since the experience with Sister Pieper, and thanked us "from the profundity of [his] heart". He is SO AWESOME, you guys.
We taught him about the Restoration, focusing on priesthood power. It was by far the most clear, powerful, direct first lesson I have ever taught. He has read the BOM every day since. He accepted the invitation to be baptized.
That night in acompanimento, we told Elder Herycz he was going to come to church. He said, "I need to hear you SHOUT that he is coming to church." Sister Austin had an AMAZING idea (like always) and we put it on speaker phone and both shouted at the top of our lungs, "CAMILO IS COMING TO CHURCH. EXCLAMATION POINT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Which cracked Elder Herycz up, one of my absolute favorite things to do.
But then there was a HUGE storm on Monday morning and he didn't make it. But we felt like we needed to get in touch with him so we asked Casal Phippen to give us a ride up to his house this morning. He was there! He told us he has been reading.
"Have you prayed about it yet?"
"When are you going to say that prayer?"
"Heavenly Father is going to answer your prayer"
"I know with certainty that He will."
We are going back the day after tomorrow. Oh my GOSH you guys he is SO COOL. I feel such a connection with him. Will you pray for him and us? I feel so much promise and happiness about him. I hope I get to stay here in Ponta Delgada to keep teaching him!
And João. João is awesome and has so many questions. He is also a surgeon and coincidentally did surgery this week on Elder Herycz's NASTY ingrown toenail that he ignored for 8 months so it turned into a real beast. I think it was a small miracle, that extra connection with João.
The family of women who let us in from the rain is super nice. We are going back there again tonight. Such lovely people.
I have been meaning forever to do character sketches of the Elders for you guys. Elders Herycz and Wilson. They are simultaneously our priesthood leaders (Zone Leaders, E. Herycz is our District Leader too), our only real peers on this island, our friends, our annoying little brothers, and almost like sons in a way? It is SO STRANGE but I stinking love them to death all the same.
Elder Wilson is from SLC. He has these super blue eyes (they are always joking about how they "use the eyes" on people because Portuguese people are fascinated by blue eyes.) Elder Staples gave him the spirit animal of a Polar Bear, and it's a good one. Like, kind of ferocious, but in a deep-down playful way that somehow makes it forgivable. He spent a long time serving in the office and is enjoying the freedom of having a normal area again.
Elder Herycz is from Gloucester. His British slang is one of Sister Austin's and my favorite things to imitate. He has this inexplicable ability to laugh in people's faces and get away with it. I swear I have no idea how he does it. Like, Sister Phippen will say something in Portuguese that comes out really funny and he will just start busting up unabashedly and somehow it's, like, not offensive. It baffles me every time but it's also extremely funny. Poor guy, his ingrown toenail is pretty messy.
The two of them love chess and made us a chess set out of paper for Sister Austin's birthday. They are always describing to us their most recent epic chess game, and asking us about ours. It's been fun. I haven't played chess for a while.
Do you remember that movie, searching for Bobby Fisher? Don't move until you see it.
I feel like that happened in Ponta Delgada this transfer. Heavenly Father has been lovingly setting up the board. Preparing people, preparing us. Teaching us how to contact better, how to teach better. Leading us along, training us. Giving us little boosts and corrections and instructions. And this week was, like, power week. Everything was in place and He saw it and moved it and we got to see the power and foresight of it all. It was such an incredible week. We met so many incredible people who seem to have REAL potential.
I am SO grateful to be here. This calling is so demanding and so hard and so exhausting and so so so worth it.
I love you all way more than I have the power to describe.
Love love love,