First off, super pumped for my boy 52. Atta pep. Gonna be dope to hit Provo with you in a couple years.
The theme for my letter today will be the family. The last 36 hours, I've been thinking a lot about families in general (truthfully, more the families of Salta than my own). Sunday morning, after a firm commitment the night before, R C sent us a text saying she wasn't coming to church because her "sister was right, she doesn't fit in." That would be her younger sister T. Keep in mind this is the C familiy, 6 daughters and a son living with their single dad and aunt and uncle. Most of the family, apart from F (dad) are at some lesser level of church activity, whether members or not. They're all struggling to participate (wake up in time Sunday). Long story short, there's just a lot of contention in the house. R and T don't get along well, and there are just a lot of rifts. I think kinda as a result, R spends time with 17 year old Franco (boss hog, a bit lost). He supports R, albiet in making bad decisions like smoking and drinking. R knows she shouldn't do that kind of stuff, and wants to stop, but we saw Sunday morning a manifestation of this rift in her decisions.
We went to try and convince her, but she wouldn't budge. She cried a bit, and what I could make out in her tear-soaked Spanish was that she thinks her family hates her, they don't support her, and that shes forgiven them one too many times. I just felt sad. She wouldn't get up and come to church simply because her sister was there.
I decided to look for a Gen Conf. talk in my pile of Spanish Conference editions. I read a talk by Elder Bednar in' 09 - "More Diligent and Concerned at Home." His take-aways are that the little things done consistently, like express and show love, and bear testimony of simple truths, are the keys to a more loving home. I'd encourage ALL to read it.
Anyway, then I read a letter this morning from pop. He said simply at the end that he's kinda jealous of the gang, because they got to spend sooo much time with me, while the family sincerely just kinda took a backseat. He said he wasn't trying to make me feel bad, and that we can't change the past. Whatever. I love my family. So much. I miss you guys, and I sometimes think about how sweet it'll be to do the little things, the things I took for granted. Going to Maine and putting away the cell phones and computers, reading the scriptures together, Family Night, going out to eat. I miss more than anything the time. Hahahah I was so stupid. I laughed at the expression "forced family fun" because I didn't understand the importance of the family. I regret not spending so much time at home, and I will for sure make up for it going forward.
I can't describe very well my feelings, but I'll try. I've seen a lot of families in my life and in my mission. I've seen the ways parents discipline and even just talk to their children. I also recognize that every single family I know, including ESPECIALLY my own, has their problems. What I've observed is that when love prevails, unconditional, unquestioning (albeit perhaps deeply rooted and not waving on a flagpole in the yard) makes all the difference in the emotional/spiritual well-being, and general happiness in a person. There is no substitute. Love your brothers, love your mothers, love your fathers, love your sisters. It's the best way.
We'll see how it goes with the C family. They're definitely my little family here in Salta. Regardless, I know that God loves us all and he's given us our families as a supreme gift, as well as test. They can and will be the source of the ultimate happiness.
As for the rest of the week, things are going alright. We taught a ton of lessons this week (getting after it), but the spiritual progression hits plateaus or brick walls. I've got one last week in this forsaken land full of challenges, and I'm gonna make the best of it. I strive to not think selfishly about the timing of baptisms. In my experience, this mission focuses a lot on numbers, like who is baptizing and how often. While motivated in some way for the eternal well-being of souls, I don't see x number of baptisms from Elder Blake as a very good indicator of success. A is ready to be baptized any day now, but she lacks a strong desire because she still isn't 100% sure the church is true etc. I say "Hey, I wasn't 100% sure until I became a missionary. I'd lie if I said I am 100% right now. With such surety, it's impossible to have faith. I believe with all my being, but you sure don't have to KNOW to show your faith in the waters of baptism." My conclusion: I'd love to be a part of her baptism, but I'll respect the Lord's timing. She has repented of a lot of things, and has really turned her life around. Pressuring her out of my own personal ambition is foolish. I'll do all I can to help her take the step, but it will be out of a desire to help her and to please God.