Thursday, February 23, 2012

An Inspiring Story of Re-activation

Alright, let me clear up a couple things. first of all, the returned missionary that's writing talley was one of my best friends in the mission. his name is Ryan Shapiro, and he was one of the best, humblest, most obedient elders to pass through this mission, so I gave him the "referral" if you will. I didn't know if anything would come of it, but I thought I'd give it a shot. I should have let talley know what was going one, and I'll let her know now.

Well, as far as this week went it's still been pretty good. It's really hot again. ha not that it ever cooled down a whole lot, but now at night it doesn't even really get that cool. We're just plugging away here, it's been a little rough as far as investigators though. But, one of the less actives that we found (actually.. I would say she found us) is going so strong. Like amazingly strong.

She passed by one day as we were teaching one investigator, humberto. When she passed by, she did so without saying so at first, but then back tracked and asked where the church was. We told her, introduced ourselves, she told us her name was emma, and then we set a date to come back. She spoke perfect english, mind you, so my comp enjoyed that.

Anyway, we pass by a couple days later and she explains that she joined the church when she was younger, and she got married and fell away from the church. then she got a divorce and moved from the capital to Bonao to be closer to her family. 14 years of more or less never going to church she decides to stop and as us where the church is, and that brings us to the other day. So, we give her a book of Mormon, she expresses her gratitude because she left hers in the capital and we invite her to read it and ask if it was true. She accepted.

two weeks later, she has been to church twice with her daughter and once with her sister. her daughter is getting baptised in a couple weeks and her sister a little while after. She is talking to a less active neighbor and getting her to come to church. She is talking with her christian neighbors and getting them interested in the gospel message. She is reading every night with her kids, cooking for us on Sundays, and really just filling her home with the sweet spirit of the gospel. It is beautiful. She has been such a miracle, and her energy has not been unnoticed by the branch presidency. She already has a calling... Relief society president!

It's amazing just how quickly she has been pulled back from complete activity to one of the best (if not the best) members of the branch. I asked her what the spark was, and she told me it was that first invitation to simply read and pray about the Book of Mormon, and she's just had an incredible energy ever since. that book is true. It is inspiring people daily, people are discovering and rediscovering that book time and time again.

I am going to wrap this up. I love you two. Be good, safe and happy. Momma, know I'm praying for you and I'll be doing a fast especially devoted to you this weeked. Get well.

till next week, never a second wasted, finding those golder investigators (and less actives)

elder C. Rufus Sweeney

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A worn out sole.....but a happy soul!

Ok, before I mention anything else, I have to tell you.. Neither of my shoes are functioning (see pictures for details...). I don't have any now that work properly.. In other words, I need new ones. I know a pair are coming in the mail, but it would be nice to get a couple more. :) Sorry for the late warning..
Alright, now that that's out of the way (I've been meaning to tell you for a while), WE HAD THE BAPTISM SATURDAY! It was great. Seriously, the kid is a monster already. He has plans of serving a mission, and wants to know when he can do it so he can leave as soon as possible. His name is Frank. I've also included a picture of that. It was a really beautiful day.
Then, Monday we had the priviledge of hearing from Elder Bednar from the quorum of the 12 apostles. The spirit was so powerful in that. I left a different missionary, and a different person. It wasn't super typical, he stood up in front of everyone and just asked the group of missionaries questions about the talks he assigned us to read. He made a point that anything that draws away from the spirit was priestcraft, including just saying that we did a good job in the lesson. It isn't us. It's the Lord.
At the end I was asked to say the closing prayer, so I was able to shake his hand. It was an honor really, because no one was supposed to be able to, with his super tight schedule he didn't have time to shake anyone's hand. But I got to sneak in and do it. ;) I asked him a quick question, if he remembered Tom Cowger from his Purdue days. He played intermural basketball with him. He said the name rang a bell, but couldn't remember well, and I told him he was the proud father of a missionary in Chile. He smiled and said thanks Elder Sweeney. I was happy to remind him that even those who he's possible forgotten about are in this work with him.
That wasn't the end of the day though. We arrived back in Bonao and went to a family home evening. It's the same one we go to just about every week with the same family, so I almost didn't want to go because I was pretty tired and it was getting late, but we went regardless. When we got there, everything seemed normal, but the old man of the house let us now shortly after that it wasn't so normal. He told us that his son, who was married about a year ago and has a baby of about a month old, was having problems with his marriage, and that we should pray for him. We gladly accepted, and started in with the message. In the middle of the spiritual message, that very son walked in from work, and sat down in his usually joking, fun mood. He is always jolly, always fun and joking about everything, kind of like Micheal in a way.
Well, the message finished and we four missionaries (the zone leaders were there as well) were invited by Jose Luna (the son) into his room, where we shut the door and just broke down. He could barely choke out the words, he was crying just like a little boy. It broke my heart.. I could never have seen this tough, young, jolly, light-hearted man break down like this. It was pitiful, and he told us about how his wife left and he was thinking bad thoughts about doing something to himself. He asked for a blessing, and Elder Bort read him a scripture that was followed by a beautiful blessing from Elder Logan. There wasn't a dry eye in the room. I'll never forget that experience. I felt the pure love of Christ in there as we helped out brother from the church out.
Well, I'm gonna wrap this one up. I was thinking about it.. And I think I'd rather go to Europe, that way also I can be SURE to be released from being a missionary beforehand. I've wanted to go to Europe for a LONG time anyway, you both know that. I love you two.
Be safe, be good, you know that I am. I am eating well enough, lots of vegetables now that I know how to wash them appopriately. I love you two.
Till next week, not a second wasted, and always working with the spirit,
Elder C. Rufus Sweeney

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Power of Example

Hey there family. It's been a pretty crazy week. Let me break it down for you....

Sunday Humberto couldn't make it to church because one of his relatives died (of course, that guy has the strangest things happen to him on sunday.... Like I'm just waiting for him to tell us the road on the way to church was blocked by a giant blue whale). But, he's still pretty solid. Humberto is the 38 year old accountant that was super prepared.

Bad news though, Chinito, one of the young men that was supposed to be baptised, said he doesn't want to now because he went to carnaval (that diabolical festival where you dress up as a demon and get drunk) and he saw a couple of members there. He says he doesn't want to be baptised then make wrong choices like that and not be a true follower of Christ. We're had some intense lessons with him since, but we just can't shake him of his doubt. It's really sad.. I still don't know who the members were, but I must say, it was a HUGE lesson for me about how much an example is worth.

Let's see.. The other baptism is good to go. This Saturday he'll be getting dunked. He was so prepared. He already has a mission as a definite plan. I want to send him packages and all kinds of junk food on the mission.. haha I want him to feel special. He's a great young man.

I've been safe this week, luckily. At least on that end I'm good.

I only have a little bit of time left here in Bonao. It's really astounding how quickly these last couple transfers have gone. The mission as a whole, since a year, has just flown by. I think maybe that's a credit to knowing the language and the area, and being senior comp and trainer, it's all just kept me incredibly busy.. which is great. There really isn't ever a dull moment. We're always looking here for prepared people.

Speaking of which, we found this couple, Luis and Mayelin the other day that are just so cool. At their house, the second time we passed by, they fed us what's called morcilla, or pig intestine which deep fried blood in it. The next time they fed us something a bit less weird.. Some classic dominican cheese and what was called "leche criolla", or the by-product of cheese. It was pretty delicious... As for the pig intestine... well....

Anyway, this family is just awesome. They are super nice, the guy is funny, normal, works as a radiologist, and the woman is studying. They are off on Sunday, and they are really interested in the eternal family concept. I love them already, I'm hoping they keep progressing. They would be a wonderful family for the branch.

More news.. This Monday Elder Bednar is coming to the mission. Aparently there's going to be like a Q and A sesh, but nothing as far as shaking his hand or anything like that. It's going to be good I think regardless. I wanted to ask him if he remembers Tom Cowger from them playing basketball at Purdue, but I think I won't be able to do that. More on how that goes later.

Well, see you guys about 8 months. Love you, be safe and happy, I know you are.

Till next week, not a second wasted,

Elder C. Rufus Sweeney

Too Much Excitement for one week!

Let me just start in, this week has been pretty crazy. First off, if Romney wins the Primaries, it may just mean Jesus is coming soon, and I´d have to choose me wife pretty quick, don´t you think? haha but seriously, I´m really happy about Florida, South Carolina had me a bit worried.

And about your chest pains.. Seriously, just go to the doctor if you feel even the slightest bit of pain in your chest. THE MOST IMPORTANT ORGANS are there. Ha jeez don´t scare me like that.

Ok, a little bit of news. A story rather. Last Wednesday, just after we had gotten done writing our letters to our families, Elder Wilkinson and I were walking over to a young man's house for a birthday party. His neighborhood is pretty rough, at least for like... Well not missionaries, but it takes up about 2/3 of our area and it's where the vast majority of our investigators are. Anyway, on the way to this area we pass by a relatively safe area (so we think..). We first have to go drop something off at a member's house, so as we pass by a house on our way we see two men shouting pretty intensely at each other. It's really not that uncommon to see fights and stuff here, but then we are passing by again 5 minutes later by the same house, and this time we hear a gun shot. My companion saw the man with a pistol, the same one who was just yelling. We hid behind a wall, and we see the mom of one of our good investigators passing by. We yelled at her to come over, telling her we just saw someone get shot. So, we saw the man with the pistol run the other direction, and two other men running up behind him with machetes. We took the opportunity to escape.

Needless to say we were a bit shaken up, but regardless we went to the birthday party. It was the birthday party of one of our investigators, Alex.

Another nice happening, Sunday we were getting ready to go to church and it starts raining. Every time it rains here on sunday it means it's going to be a poor turnout at church, and it's by the grace of God that you get even one investigator at church. Well, for like 4 weeks we had been inviting this man to go to church who is so good but every time he said he would go something would be presented or he'd have something ridiculous that came up. So, this was the Sunday he seemed the most sure and lo and behold, it was raining. Well, I was complaining a bit, but my comp was very calm, and before leaving the apartment we said a prayer. He simply said "bless the rain to go away so that we can have investigators in church." So simple, and the Lord heard his prayer. By the time we were out the door, it had stopped. And it was strange too, because there were rain clouds that had just passed us, a sliver of blue sky directly above, and then another rain cloud behind that. It was about a 30 minute window and that's all, but it's all that was needed. Every investigator with a baptismal date (except one) went to church, including that man who we wanted there so bad.

Let's see.. I should only have 6 weeks left here in Bonao (God willing). I love this place, but I've GOT to go. I would love to see the coast, as you said, or even to just be in Santiago. That would be enough. Bonao is practically my home, but people leave their home to go on trips about every 9 weeks, and I.. well I don't do that. Ha I'm ready to go.

We put another date for the 3 of March, so if all goes perfectly, we should be getting another few by the time I leave. One is almost sure, not this Saturday but the next. Two are likely for that day. The rest.. We'll see, but I'm hoping for 5 more by the time I'm out of here, we'll see. It would be a miracle for Bonao. For anywhere really.

I know you know it doesn't affect me to hear about the amount of time I have left. It doesn't affect the amount I work, but it does make me think about home a bit more, which is totally your plan, is it not? ha it's working if it is. I want so badly to eat at a Chinese place, and a mexican place, and cracker barrel, and to watch a movie.. or 200, and to go skiing, or just even be alone. Ha it's the one thing I may have taken for granted most before the mission.

I've been doing a lot of exercise of late, trying to get in shape again. My comp is a mad man, he's kind of dragging me along while he works out. ha but it's pretty effective.

I love you two. Stay well, mom and dad. DON'T DELAY GOING TO THE HOSPITAL! I hate finding out i have things wrong with me too but whatever, it's part of life.

Say hi to Grandma and Grandpa for me, I miss them a ton.

Till next week, not a second wasted,

Elder C. Rufus Sweeney