This week has been an interesting one. Monday right after I e-mailed we went with a group of missionaries to do a service project. We were out working in the sun for three hours and my companion got heat exhaustion. She passed out right in the middle of this old guys living room. Actually, we were quite lucky, no one saw her fall, and if she had fallen six inches in any direction she would have cracked her head open. Anyhow, we both got an up close look at what happens when you get dehydrated in this heat... it wipes you out. Monday we made it to one more meeting and then had to call it quits, and then Tuesday was a pretty light work day too. By Wednesday we were able to get moving again only to go tracting out in the sun for two hours and for Hna Alvarez to almost pass out again. We're now working on drinking more water. I guess our mission theme "living water to a thirsty land" can also be applied to the missionaries. Actually, according to the members in this area, this has been a very "cool" summer. We really only spent a week or two up by 120 and then the last two weeks we've been in the low triple digits. I'm not sure I believe that this was really a "cool" summer, but I'm counting my blessings.
Friday we had our first Zone Conference with President Taylor. Talk about turning everything upside down. A lot changed at this Zone Conference. A lot, a lot. I'm very excited though, and I think the changes are all good steps forward for the mission. It will just take a little adjusting. A lot of rules changed, with the most noticeable being about music. It has been moved to what the white handbook says, "anything that inspires, uplifts, and invites the spirit". I listened to Mozart for the first time in almost a year this past week. I was pretty thrilled. He gave us some more specific guidelines as far as what really fits within the definition, but besides that we have been asked to choose well. There were also some changes for how some of the inner workings of the mission will work, and so I'm interested to see how things continue to unfold. More and more I am seeing how President Taylor has been able to take all the things that have gone so well over the last 3 years and just continue to build on them.
Now for the birthday fun. The fun really started on Saturday. Saturday morning we got up at 3:00am to head down to the Temple in Mesa with some of the sisters from our ward. It was great to get to go down, and they are some of my favorite sisters, so I had a great time being with them. On our way home they took us to a Mexican bakery and we ate pastries for breakfast. I got a peach empanada, yum! (Think peach filled pastry and you're on the right lines).
We got back in time to help out at an activity at the church. They were doing a craft for making pictures of Christ to put up in homes, and one of our investigators couldn't come, so I made one for her. I was quite pleased with how it turned out. Hna Alvarez also made one for an Hermana who wasn't able to come last minute. After finishing the project (which took way way longer than we expected when we agreed to help) we went home and crashed. We were exhausted and figured if we didn't get some sleep made up we would be useless for the rest of the evening. Saturday night we ate dinner with the Waldo's and all of her grand kids came in to sing to me with an improv "cupcake and candle" (a little bowl of ice cream with a spoon stuck in the top). It was really cute. We made a few more visits and then called it a night.
Sunday started off with a bang. After I had gone to bed Hna Alvarez had decorated some of the house we live in, it was fun to wake up to. For church Hna Alvarez and I had been asked a few days before to speak in Sacrament meeting, and then right after that asked to teach Sunday school. What a birthday present. I shared some fun stories I had received in letters this week that applied to missionary work. One from Trent and then another that the Savilles had sent me about their time up in Tianjin. I thought the talk went well. I mostly focused on the members role in missionary work, and then how we need to have faith, patience, and open our mouths. The more I get comfortable with Spanish the more I enjoy speaking for things like that. After church we made a few visits, and then went over to Leonila's for my birthday dinner. It was quite the meal. I opened presents at her house and then we all went over to another families home for a Noche de Hogar (Family Home Evening) and birthday party. Hna Ayala made a Salvadorean specialty, Papusas, and I got to learn how to make them. I didn't get pictures of that one so I guess I'll have to go over again for practice to get some. All in all it was a fun day.
I thought to end I would share a really interesting experience I had two weeks ago. I've hesitated about sharing it because in no way is it an example of where my language skills are... but instead I really look at how the Lord can make us so much more than we are when we are doing what He wants. Two weeks ago we had a visit with one of the families we work with. We were going to eat lunch and then were planning on watching a movie. We thought we had the movie in Spanish, but then that morning I felt like we only had it in English, but not to worry because everything would be okay. I didn't think much of it until we pulled up to their home and discovered that in fact the movie was only in English. We prayed and felt really strongly like we needed to show this movie, and that everything would be okay. As we were talking about it I suddenly felt like I should offer to translate. I felt really peaceful about it, and we made that our game plan. We would watch the movie and I would translate. As we ate lunch with this family I was pretty nervous. I've never translated much before, and this was an hour long movie. Most translators (from what I've seen here) switch on and off because it is exhausting trying to translate for long periods of time. As we sat at lunch again I felt really peaceful and knew everything would be okay. After lunch we told them we would be watching the movie, and I said I would translate. Translating for that hour was one of the most memorable experiences of my mission. I did it, and it really easy. The words just came, even words I don't remember learning. It didn't matter how fast the scene was going or how fast they were talking, I could keep up. Verb tenses and vocabulary I had struggled with just came, and for the entire hour I translated. We left that appointment and I was more drained that I had been in a long time. I was exhausted. Here is the interesting part of the story, the next day in language study I decided to try translating a few short video clips just to see if I could do it again. I couldn't. Not even close. I could get maybe every third or fourth sentence and that was all. I know I was helped out so much in that hour, and it was because that movie was what the family needed. Only because they needed it and the Spirit was present was I able to translate like that. This really is the Lord's work. He really does lead and guide it, and He really does make us into so much more than we can be on our own.
I love you all!
Ps. I hope you enjoy all of the pictures.