A Week in the Life of Hermana Kimberly Brown

March 12, 2012

This is like my journal entry for the week. So it is in a lot of Spanglish. But this is what is new this week…

We went to visit Julia and before we had a chance to teach anything, she told us, “Chicas, I´m going to church on Sunday. I tried to go this Sunday, but I waited and waited for a colectivo and no colectivo came. But this Sunday sí o sí voy a ir para la cena sacramental.” I was so completely blown away–Julia, who had told us that she had made the decision not to go back to the church. I asked her why now she wanted to attend church, and she said, “Unos días atrás me llamó Margarita–me di cuenta de que me había ofendido por una tontera, y yo tengo que ir para tomar la cena sacramental.” Then we read the Book of Mormon together, from the beginning. 1 Nefi 1. She had never started reading from the beginning, and she really liked it! And I felt the Spirit in a lesson with Julia for the first time in a long time. There really are no duros para el Señor.

Later that day, we met with César and Natalia. César had prepared a delicious desert with a cracker crust and filling made of cream and strawberry mermelada. Like a frozen strawberry cheesecake. It was delicious. We were trying to teach César about the importance of the priesthood: how it had been restored, how he could be baptized by that authority, and how he could use that authority to bless his own family.

But César just wasn´t having any of it. He complained about the members, about the insincere testimonies that were borne in fast and testimony meeting, about this, about that…we just weren´t making any progress with him.

And then Natalia stood up and went into the house for a moment to see to Lorenzo. And when she did, César whispered to us, “Hermanas, yo me voy a bautizar pero necesito más o menos un mes para cambiar algunos hábitos que tengo.” We were completely floored, and did our best to control our hysterical laughter. We set a fecha with him for the 7th of March, and didn´t say a word to Natalia. I think he is keeping it a secret 10 percent to surprise her and 90 percent to be a punk.

Speaking of there being no duros para el Señor, Liliana is…coming along. The other night we had a cita with Carlos, and he failed us. As we were walking home along Avda. Independencia past Carlos´house, we saw him pull into the driveway with Liliana. Of course we were confused, and because Liliana was so mean to us the last time we tried to talk to her, we decided that it was best to just leave them alone. But they climbed out of the car, and Carlos called us over, and Liliana said, “Pasen, chicas!” and invited us in! We had a really good charla with her–she asked us questions about why we don´t drink coffee, etc. We read from 1 Corintios and explained the concept of a modern prophet who speaks to us about modern-day things. We emphasized the importance of her asking God to know for herself. We had a really great charla with her, and the Lord´s Spirit was there. She got called in to work, because she is the private secretary of the Ministra de Salud and she can get called in to work anytime. But a couple days later, we dropped off some brownies and a pretty handwritten note to her to personally invite her to Carlos´baptism.

After she had to leave, Carlos gave us a ride home, and we aprovechared the opportunity to have a very franca charla with him. We had just found out from the Hno Ledesma that Carlos´departamento had fallen through–the señora had given back his deposit and told him that she had changed her mind about renting to him because her son wanted to put a galpón there in the house. We were in a panic–it was already Tuesday night, and Carlos´baptism was on Tuesday! And he had already invited the whole world! How could we baptize a man who was conviviendo?

We talked to Carlos, and explained just how important the ley de castidad was and just how important it was that he didn´t fall into temptation after he was baptized. We found out that it had been almost a year since he and Liliana had had relaciones. And he told us about a friend of his, a man who lives in Barrio Ambato, with whom he had shared the gospel and talked about the Libro de Mormón. He told us that he wanted to go with the elders to teach his friends. “Soy un pescador de hombres, como ustedes,” he told us. I felt that my heart would burst. And I felt sick at the idea of telling Carlos that he couldn´t get baptized on Saturday.

We entered the pension, and I turned to Hna Steward and said, “Hermana, I know it seems crazy and President will say we´re crazy and it doesn´t make sense to baptize someone that is conviviendo–but I just feel that Carlos needs to get baptized this weekend. When I think about telling him that he can´t get baptized on Saturday, I get a sick and sad feeling.”

She said, “I feel the same way.” So we knelt in mighty prayer and explained our motives to the Lord and asked him to soften President´s heart so that Carlos could get baptized that weekend even though he still hadn´t found an apartment. And to my immense relief, President said yes. He said that because Carlos and Liliana hadn´t had relations for almost a year, because Carlos had promised to keep the law of chastity, and because he was still looking for a place to move, another apartment, where he could move as soon as possible, he could get baptized. Oh my goodness we were overjoyed. Carlos was really going to get baptized. The true measure of if someone is converted to the gospel or not is if they want to share and convert others–and it is evident that Carlos is really converted. He has also been sharing the gospel with Liliana, leaving his folletos laying around the house so that she picks them up and reads them, and answering her questions. There is no doubt in my mind that Carlos is truly converted and ready to be baptized.

Our last charla with Carlos was really special–we wanted to teach him about the sacerdocio, so we had left him to read Alma 13. That night was a crazy night and Hno Ledesma wasn´t available, so we just charlared with Carlos in his house (kind of sketchy–but there wasn´t another option, and anyway it was how the Lord wanted it). It turned out to be the best thing that we could have done with Carlos. He first told us that he had read the chapter three times! And in his book I could see that he had highlighted his favorite parts. He proceeded to read us the whole chapter and give us his commentary, verse by verse. It was the best thing that could have happened because he was able to give commentary of what he had learned. He was so incredibly excited–he talked about how the priesthood was eternal, and how the Lord had chosen him before he was born to receive the gospel, and how powerful and essential the atonement is in our lives, and how badly he wants to work and serve in the kingdom. It was such a beautiful moment–I knew that Carlos was more than ready and I teared up as I felt the power of his spirit. He is getting baptized at the age of fifty-one, but he is already more of a spiritual giant in the gospel and has a deeper testimony of this stuff than I do!

On Thursday Hna Steward and I had a charla franca–she talked to me about trusting in the Lord, and how…I can learn to trust him better. And also have more faith in people, and the Lord´s ability to change and help them. More hope for humanity, ha ha. So that is what this week has been all about–trying to trust the Lord better, and realizing that I can indeed put all my trust and confidence in him. Realizing that he has my back! Again and again and again this week I saw his hand in my life and in the lives of the people here. I saw him soften people´s hearts who seemed impossible. I saw him change situations and solve problems that were impossible. Nothing is impossible for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ!

So on Friday we went to charlar with Pablo Nanini, who I had long since given up on. My compie didn´t help me at all with the lesson, because she couldn´t understand what Pablo was saying. So I was on my own and Pablo was so awkward–hitting on me and saying that he would never go back to church because it wasn´t for him.

I didn´t know what to do. It seemed like a hopeless situation. But I remembered what Hannah and I had talked about. So I didn´t give up. After some awkward charlaring, and reprimanding Pablo for his flirtatious comments, I asked him to bring his Book of Mormon. And I read with him Moroni 6, and applied it directly to him. About how he had been baptized and received the Holy Ghost and now we wanted to help him and guardar him in the camino recto and how it didn´t matter if he had sinned, the Savior and repentance were still there for them, and all of the members of the church wanted to help him and be his family. When I finished Pablo sat in stunned silence. Then I asked him, “What do you think?” And he said, “I want you to teach me to read the scriptures like that. To apply them to my life like that.” I told him that of course he would. And he said that he would like to come back to church. The next day he failed the cita, but it was a start. It was a beginning. It was a miracle that the Lord was able to work through me because I was not of little faith.

So on Saturday when the elders had lost track of the key to the pileta, I refused to get worried or panicky. I was determined to enjoy that day, that moment, with Carlos. And it all worked out fine. The font got filled in time; the baptismal service turned out lovely. One of the best parts was that Liliana came, and she brought her sixteen-year-old niece! The DVD player didn´t work, so we didn´t show the DVD we were planning on. So instead the bishop took the time while everyone was changing and bore his testimony. Instead of squirm in my chair with worry like I usually do when Obispo Diaz gets on one of his rants, I relaxed and put my trust in the Lord. And later Silvina Ledesma told us that Liliana had cried all the way through the Bishop´s testimony. He had talked about finding true happiness and peace in this life. Something in the craziness of his testimony had really struck a chord with her. The Lord had touched her heart. He was in the details of that baptismal service.

David had come to the baptism too. He was able to get to know some of the members better, including Héctor.

After the baptism, the Ledesmas invited us over for an asado. It was us, Liliana, Valentina (the niece), Carlos, the Ledesmas, the hna Margarita, and Silvina´s mom Aída. It was great–Hno Ledesma and Carlos were the asadores, and it was delicious. We charlared comfortably with Liliana, and Valentina had lots of questions about the church. Carlos commented to Hna Steward, “You know, a month ago when we were charlaring here in the patio and Hna Brown asked me if I would be baptized the 3rd of March, I thought–these chicas are crazy! I thought you two were absolutely nuts! And look, here I am, the tenth of March, baptized a member of the church!”

Then Liliana found out that we have a curfew, and she started reprimanding the men for not BBQing faster so that we could get home on time. I thought it was so funny that she was the non-member and the only one concerned about getting us home on time. About halfway through the asado, the Lawsons showed up and told us that we´re staying together this transfer! Woot woot!

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Happiness is…

March 12, 2012

This weekend Carlos Verandi got baptized!

In the photo, from left to right:
-me
-Hermana Steward
-Carlos, who now tells us, “¡Soy un pescador de hombres ahora!” (I´m a fisher of men now!), because even before his baptism he was sharing the gospel with his friends and family and anyone who would listen
-Nildo Ledesma, who carries a machete with him wherever he drives, “just in case,” and who has been sharing the gospel with Carlos for the duration of their ten-year friendship, and who is overjoyed that Carlos finally got baptized.
-Little Anita Ledesma, who is the Argentine version of Cindy Lou Who
-Her mom Silvina Ledesma, who puts up with her husband Nildo´s insane driving and constant jokes about how he can´t wait for the Lord to “bring back the poligamia, O Señor!”
-Her son Pino
-Lucila Ledesma
-Camila Ledesma
These people are my family in Argentina!
Another sweet and funny moment this week happened with César and Natalia, who we´ve been working with for months. Natalia was baptized a year ago; César is the father of her three-year-old son, Lorenzo. He needs to get baptized and they need to get married, but they´re working through a lot of relationship problems. Anyway, at our last charla with both of them, we talked to César about the importance of the priesthood: how it was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith, how he could be baptized by that authority, and how he could receive that power to bless his own family.
But the charla wasn´t going anywhere. César kept arguing with us, complaining about the hypocrisy of the members and the insincere manner in which they bore their testimonies, etc. Our efforts to commit him to be baptized were going nowhere.
Then little Lorenzo started to cry, and Natalia stood up and went into the other room to tend to him. When she did, César whispered to us with a twinkle in his eye, “Hermanas, don´t tell Natalia, but I´m going to get baptized in a month! I need about a month to work on some bad habits of mine, but then I´ll get baptized!”
We were so tickled. I´m pretty sure he wants it to be kept secret from Natalia ten percent to give her a pleasant surprise and ninety percent just to make things difficult.

Strep and Carnaval

February 20, 2012
 

I am so sick with strep throat right now. I slept like twelve hours last night. Everything is shut down for carnaval. We were lucky to find a cyber open. But the work goes forward; we are teaching a 20-year-old kid named David who works at the cyber we always go to. When he was fifteen he was driving his moto and crashed it with his girlfriend on it. A year later his dad died, and then right after that his uncle who was his grandfather. His mom lives in Buenos Aires. He’s all alone, and let’s just say he’s really prepared for the gospel. Yesterday we had our first discussion with him, in the park in front of the Catholic church. We talked to him about how he could fill the emptiness inside him by building a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We taught him how to pray. And he accepted a baptismal date for March 10th. He has to stop smoking by then, but I know he can do it. It’s cool when you find someone that you know has been prepared by the hand of the Lord.

God is still a god of miracles.

December 5, 2011

God is still a god of miracles. I know that because I left General Paz
with a lot of tears–a lot of bittersweet tears, sad to leave members
I loved like family not knowing when I would see them again, and also
sad about Patricia. Patricia, our dearly beloved investigator, hadn’t
arrived at her baptismal date because of a lot of complications and
her inability to quit smoking. The whole thing went up in flames
literally an hour before her scheduled baptismal service–the font was
filled and everything.

So I went to Rosedal, another barrio on the other side of Cordoba, to
work with another hermana for about ten days while we waited for our
hijitas to arrive from the U.S. (they had been delayed because of visa
problems). Near the end of the ten days, I got a call from my old zone
leaders. “We have good news,” they told me. “Patricia quit smoking and
we interviewed her today–she’s ready to be baptized. Will you
organize her baptism?”

So from the other side of Cordoba I flew into action, baking brownies
and calling the members and planning the talks and the service.
Although it was thrown together in about twenty-four hours, it was one
of the most beautiful baptismal services I’ve been part of, mostly
because of the look of pure bliss on Patricia’s face.

A few short hours after Patricia’s baptism, I picked up my new
recruit, Hermana Vicki Adair from Mesa, Arizona, at the mission home.
We boarded a midnight bus to Catamarca, about seven hours to the
north. We arrived in Catamarca on Sunday morning and hit the ground
running. We are opening an area in Catamarca, and we are the first
hermanas here in almost twenty years. Add to the mix the fact that my
compañera was brand-new from the U.S. and spoke little Spanish, and it
made for a few…character-building weeks. 🙂 We’ve gotten lost in our
area a lot and we’ve been so exhausted by the long dusty days and the
Catamarca desert heat.

But the Lord has been really kind to us, and we’ve been able to find
some truly elect people here in Catamarca. One such is Norma, who knew
that Joseph Smith was a prophet the first time she prayed and is so
determined to get baptized that she is in the process of separating
from her live-in boyfriend of eight years to be able to do so.
Francisco and Silvina are two others who we surely knew in the life
before. We first talked to them one windy afternoon outside their tiny
cinder-block house up in the cactus-covered hills; they let us come in
that very moment and we instantly fell in love with their young
family.

I see the Lord’s hand in my life; and I know that the difficult times
will only help me to become more like him. I feel such a profound love
for these people. I know that they are my spirit brothers and sisters
and that before this life I made a covenant with the Lord that during
my mortal life I would do his work, missionary work, the work of
bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His spirit
children. I want to keep doing this work for the rest of my life.