Well, this week was...a week. Pretty normal I guess? Well a few cool things happened. Elder Choc and I got to go help a member paint a big room in his house. Except before we were able to paint we had to take off all the existing paint with sandpaper. That took about seven million years. My arms were seriously dying of tired from rubbing the walls for so long. The paint came off in a powder, like chalk residue, and it got everywhere. I don't have my camera with me today but I have some pictures of me completely covered in paint dust. Lets just say that my black Vans shoes are now white. So at least it was cool that we got to help him out. Service for the win!
Also on Tuesday I finally got mail for the first time in a month! A freaking mountain of Dear Elders, and one actual letter, and two packages. Nice. You guys are really awesome because you always make everyone jealous of how much mail I get compared to them. Haha. Keep it up. One of the packages was sent on November 18th... so... fairly high-speed mail delivery if I do say so myself. It was more Christmas presents that I was not expecting at all. Thank you familia! Probably my favorite thing was getting the Conference edition of the Ensign IN ENGLISH. I have been reading it a lot. I like English. Wow, English is so awesome. I opened the second package and realized it was for Valentines Day so I didn't take anything out and I left it for tomorrow. Spoiling surprises is the worst! But I'm excited and thank you for sending it to me (I only saw the t-shirt. Rose Bowl champs 2012!). I promise I will try to reply to the letters eventually, but just so you know I haven't written a single letter since December because it's really hard to find time to do it.
Anywayz after the zone meeting on Tuesday we had interviews with the Prez. President Risso is the way coolest guy ever. I was a little worried actually that he was gonna be a little upset with Elder Choc and I because our numbers haven't been exactly incredible, but the first thing he said to me was "So Elder Hemsley, how's Pacasmayo? It's a hard area, I know..." Oh thank goodness he understands! He also said to me "Elder Choc told me you two are showering with buckets." "Yeah, we are..." "You can't do that!! I didn't know your room didn't have running water!" Haha, oh... I knew it was a little unusual that we didn't have running water, but I didn't know it was actually not allowed. I mean, ol' Porter Long is showering with a bucket in the 'Pines so I assumed it was alright. "Your dad would kill me if he knew you were showering with buckets!" he told me. I was just kinda sitting there thinking well, he does know, and he probably thinks that it's kind of funny actually... Lolz. And then he was like "and he told me that with your penchant you eat the same thing for dinner that you ate for lunch, but re-heated... You can't do that either! Your penchant is not supposed to do that!" Haha thank goodness because I hate that. And then later he asked "and how's your family doing?" and I responded "they're doing good, I think... Well I don't really know, I just got a month's worth of letters from them, so I'll find out later." "A month's worth of letters? How come?" So I told him about how the missionaries in the office weren't sending us our mail because we didn't have all of our baptismal records in, and he was like "seriously? They weren't sending you your mail?... They're not allowed to do that!" Haha. Wow. I assumed he knew. Guess not. So I don't think I'll be having that problem any longer. But holy crap! That's a lot of problems! The interview got me excited, because I think I realized that yeah, we have a ton of problems in Pacasmayo, and that most of the mission is not like that, so I have stuff to look forward too. Elder Choc told me the same thing, that when I get to other areas I'll realize how different most of the mission is. As we were driving back to ol' Pacasmayo I was thinking about why God would send me to Pacasmayo as my first area? Why would he send me, a brand new missionary who doesn't know anything, to a tough area where the branch has a ton of problems that are out of our control, and where we'd see little success, along with having crap living conditions that are apparently so crappy they're against the rules to have, and where I'd have to go a month without hearing from my family? Why here, of all places? And as I was thinking about it the thought clearly came to my head: "because God trusts you." Instantly I was reminded of my patriarchal blessing witch says that exact same thing. God trusts me. So that hit me kinda hard. God knew where He was sending me, and He knew I'd be able to deal with it, and learn and grow a whole lot on the way. It kinda got me way more excited about doing the work here. Kinda cool thing.
Also this week we went to a city called Jequetepeque for the first time (coolest city name ever. Heck-ay-tay-peck-ay). It's another city that's actually part of our area but we've never been. We went to visit this guy who we met at church who invited us to come visit him because he had just moved from Lima and was listening to the missionaries there and he wants to learn more because his wife and some other relatives are members of the church. Okay, awesome! He's way, way cool. He's already read the whole Book of Mormon (not even the members here have done that) and he knows its true, and when we first visited him he told us "look, I'm going to get baptized for sure, I'm just not quite ready yet." So we visited him twice this week and they were great visits. But the second time he was getting his floor tiled and the workers started cutting tile in the middle of our visit and it was the loudest thing in the world and it was stupidly hard to try to visit with him. Then, to make things worse (or I dunno, I kinda liked it...) at one of the moments when it was quiet, I suddenly hear somebody upstairs (another family lives upstairs) blasting blink-182. Ohhhhh woow. I haven't heard blink in five months! It was more than a little bit difficult to try to focus on the lesson and not the song, when its my first time hearing one of my favorite songs ever in five months. Gah. But it ended, and by the end of the lesson, he accepted a baptismal date for March 3rd. So success!! He's the best.
I have a cool story about tithing to tell you, if I have time to explain it all... Okay I'm gonna try!
Anyway first of all, tithing is one of the things people like to hate most about the Church. Including the members here. It's actually a huge problem this branch has. Anyway, what non-members may be thinking is that the bishop just wants their money or something. Silly people! The bishop doesn't want your money! The scriptures clearly teach that Church leaders are not to be paid for their service.
"...the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support.
"And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God. (Mosiah 18: 24, 26)."
And here's one from La Biblia as well:
"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. (1 Peter 5: 2-3)."
The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach the same things. Go figure. Nobody in the Church gets paid for what they do. Not the bishops, not the teachers, not the missionaries. Everything in the Church is service. So where does your tithing go?
"Tithing funds are used to support the ongoing activities of the Church, such as building and maintaining temples and meetinghouses, carrying the gospel to all the world, conducting temple and family history work, and many other worldwide activities. Tithing does not pay local Church leaders, who serve without receiving payment of any kind.
"Local Church leaders send the tithing received each week directly to Church headquarters. A council comprised of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Presiding Bishopric determines specific ways to use the sacred tithing funds (Preach My Gospel)."
Okay, so we're not paying the bishop so that he can buy himself a nice big TV (and both Star Wars trilogies on bluray). But still, paying your tithing is hard! Paying a full tithe means willingly giving ten percent of your total income to the Lord. That's a big chunk of your money, and to people who don't fully understand the purpose of tithing and the blessings that come from it, that ten percent can be a really hard thing to give up.
Well, the other day we went to visit this sister named Antonia. She's a single mom of two sons who until just recently was living in a house made of tarps and sticks. Now she lives in an adobe house under a roof that dumps gallons of water on her and her kids every time it rains. Dirt floors, holes in the walls. She has no job, and she has no money, other than the little bit that her mother occasionally sends her. Life has been really hard on her and she's been struggling with depression because of it. Well, Antonia is a recent convert to the Church, and she decided to make it a goal to be ready and worth to go to the temple for her first time in July when the branch has a temple trip planned. She's made an effort to get active in Church and she's really trying to make a lot of changes in her life. So we show up at her house and she invites us in, and tells us that she just got back from work... Back from work?? She got a job?? Elder Choc and I were way excited for her, and she shared with us her experience of how she was finally able to get a job.
That past Sunday had been fast Sunday, and she realized she needed to pay her fast offerings and tithing. It was a hard decision to make, but she told herself "I have this goal to go to the temple, so I have to pay my tithing." So she paid her fast offering of three soles, and her tithing of five soles. Five soles isn't even two dollars. She was paying her ten percent of the 50 soles her mother had sent her. She told us she felt sort of ashamed paying so little when others were paying so much more, but she had no job and almost no money. She paid a full tithe. It makes me think of the story in the Bible when Jesus was at the treasury and people were casting their money in, "and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living (Mark 12: 41-44)."
So Antonia paid her tithing, and she felt good about it. Happy that she's making the right choices to make it closer to her temple goal. Later that night it started to rain again. A ton. Tons of water started pouring from her ceiling, as she and her kids were trying to sleep. This made her unhappy again. She was stressed, and she was worried about her kids. She decided to kneel down and offer a prayer, saying "Heavenly Father, I paid my tithing, I paid my fast offerings, just please, please help me find a job so that I can make money to take care of my kids." After praying she went to sleep, and at 6:00 the next morning her phone rang and she was offered a job. "Now I'm always going to pay my tithing" she told us.
Isn't that the coolest story ever?? As a missionary I get to watch so many people experience miracles in their lives as they embrace the gospel and strive to follow it's teachings. One of my favorite scriptures in the Old Testament has to do with tithing. In it, the Lord says "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10)."
I love that scripture because the Lord is basically saying "Try me. Pay your tithing, and just see if I don't pour out blessings upon you. I dare you." Haha. I just love how it's worded. Isn't that an incredible promise though? Antonia has experienced for herself that the promise is true.
True To The Faith says: "If you have not yet established a pattern of consistent tithe paying, you may have difficulty believing that you can afford to give up one-tenth of your income. But faithful tithe payers learn that they cannot afford not to pay tithing. In a very literal and wonderful way, the windows of heaven are opened and blessings are poured our upon them.”
"Remember that paying tithing is not as much a matter of money as it is a matter of faith. Trust in the Lord."
Tithing is pretty cool. Sadly it's one of the big problems this branch has. Hardly any tithe payers. If people paid their tithing this branch would be a ward.
Anyway, that was a kewl experience I had this week. Tomorrow is Valentines Day and I'm stoked to open up that package I got! Don't be one of those Valentines Day weenies who hates Valentines’ Day and gets all sad every time it comes around and eats at Weenie Hut Jr.'s every Double Weenie Wednesday. I love Valentines Day! And you know how many V-day's I've spent with a special girl? About zero, give or take none. But it doesn't matter because Valentines Day is a day to be way happy and eat tons of candy. Go out and buy a ton of Sweethearts and chow down on those because they are freaking delicious. Celebrate by popping in Star Wars Ep. III and watching Anakin's and Padmé's awkward relationship develop and then end. V-Day rules and I'm way stoked for it. Also celebrate by writing me letters! Lolololololokaybye.
I miss you all but I really, really miss Rocket a ton and I haven't heard from him in five months and it is not fair at all. Tell him to send me a letter.