Sorry for the really late email. And thanks for the funny picture, I am feeling much better. Just a little bug. To be honest, I've only had diarrhea once on my mission... it's just lasted for 8 months now. Haha.
So we had some exciting news this week. President Fraatz let us know that in the month of May, as a mission we baptized and confirmed 621 people in Nicaragua and that number included 105 families. That is seriously incredible. We have a huge focus on families as a mission because that is the best way to build the church and retain converts. It is harder to baptize a mom and a dad than a single person and much harder than baptizing kids, which has been done in a lot of missions in central and south america in the past. But it is super hard to retain kids without their parents and children are not filling the leadership positions necesarry to build up the church in these countries. And a family with father and mother can support each other and are more likely to stay strong in the church. So that is our huge focus and baptizing 105 families in one month is almost unheard of. But the news was bitter sweet for me because for the first time since I got to Nicaragua, I went the entire month without a baptism. But, we did have a miracle at the end of last week and we have a family to baptize on Saturday. So here's the miracle marriage story:
President Fraatz let the whole mission know the second week of May that each zone was going to have a two day activity of marriages and baptisms the 28 and 29 of May. And that each companionship needed to have two families prepared to be baptized on the 29th. Well, Hna. Hernandez and I have been working primarily with families for the last few weeks and we had a bunch of potential families. Now everyone knows that in your big pool of investigators, there are a few who progress and a lot who don't. Well, with all the families that we were teaching we cried week after week as they gave us all the excuses in the world not to come to church. All of the positive families that we had seemed to be falling through. So the week of the activity we were without one single family to baptize, but at the zone meeting the AP's put the pressure on the ZL's and they told us to work miracles and to find the families to bring to the activity.
So we got home and I started praying, and I prayed a lot, a whole lot. And when I got up off my knees, I went to the area book and started looking through the list of past investigators. Within just a few seconds I found the teaching record of Omar and Idaida, a family who had been to church a bunch of times, had had all the lessons, but couldn't get married because Omar couldn't pay for a divorce from his first wife. So we took down the direction and set out to find them. That was the first miracle. The second miracle was that we actually found them and that they were both home. They had moved to a different house so it was kind of a wild goose chase to find them, but that's actually how it always is even with a good direction and people who haven't moved. The addresses are so vague here, "from where the saw mill used to be, one block to the lake and 25 feet to the north..." used to be? how are we supposed to find that? and that would be a pretty clear direction
So anyway, I said another prayer, upped my faith and proceeded to tell them that the Lord had guided us to their house because He is mindful of their situation and that He wanted them to be married and baptized in two days. Hmm... actually it went over pretty well. They told us about their situation and we went to work trying to find a way to resolve it. It was kind of a tricky divorce because althought it was written by the lawyer about 15 years ago, it was never registered. So we made a bunch of calls to the Elders who were working with the lawyers to get a bunch of their own families married and long story short, they made it possible. Then the day of the activity arrived and we found a place to rent a microbus for the evening/night so that we could travel to Matagalpa and back and then went to visit Omar and Idaida to make sure everything was a go. Well, Omar was in Managua with his police squad and wasn't going to be back until the evening and Idaida told us that her mother was really sick so she was going to visit her in a neighboring town and that she couldn't go to the activity either. Ahhh! So we talked to her a bunch, called her husband and found out exactly when he would be back and got them back on board. Then we went to some other appointments.
When we returned about an hour before the bus was supposed to leave, Omar had just gotten home and he told us that his jefe had just told them about a mandatory meeting for all the police officers in Jinotega that he had to be to in 45 minutes. Yikes. I had no idea how we were going to get out of this one. But there is another member of the ward who is a police officer so we called him, and long story short, he was able to get permission for Omar to come to the activity. Well all said and done, they went and got married and even though they coulnd't get baptized that saturday, they are going to be baptized this saturday and I am wonderfully happy, and really tired, but with strengthened faith in the Lord.
I am learning some hard lessons right now. I think I'm at a critical point in my mission where I am really figuring out who I am as a missionary and as a disciple. I gave my farewell talk on discipleship, but I've come to realize that I really didn't have a clue what that meant. I didn't know what it meant to receive counsel from leaders that I didn't understand or that seemed illogical, impossible, or even erroneous and then find the faith to sacrifice everything to do it anyway. I understand more personally the early saints of the church who were asked to make incredible sacrifices and follow a prophet in counsel that seemed ludicrous. I used to think that this mission was insane. When President Fraatz asked us to put four baptismal dates a day I thought it was impossible, but I had a companion who knew better, who had a lot more faith than I did and she showed me it was possible. I still fight with myself when the standards are raised to impossible heights or we are asked to do things that seem contrary to the way I think they should be done. But I am learning to have faith, to trust my leaders and not hearken to my own understanding, and then sacrifice more than I thought I had and do the impossible to accomplish whatever is asked of me. I think that is how the Lord has always worked, but I haven't ever really recognized it so harshly before. There is example after example of it in the scriptures, Abraham sacrificing his son, Nephi killing Laban (and doing just about everything else that he did), Alma and the sons of Mosiah's missions to the Lamanites, the army of Captain Moroni winning unconquerable battles, the brother of Jared building barges and finding light to cross the ocean... Joseph Smith said something to the effect of, a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things will never have the power sufficient enough to produce the faith necessary for salvacion. I am coming to understand that quote, even though I still fight against it sometimes.
Well long email and I didn't even get to a few things, but my time is up.
I love you all a whole lot more than I know how to express.
Being a missionary is the best thing in the world - learning lessons for forever.
Love, Hna. Crosland
Mom, I am damp a lot of the time, but Hna. Bustillos left me her rainboots and I've used them twice now, to my utmost delight. They make trekking through the rivers that used to be streets a lot more pleasant. Don't worry about me at all. The Lord is taking good care of me. Love you.