What a blessing it is to live in this country! Another thing I have developed out here is a sense of patriotism. I'm sure it's because of the humbling experience of being among some people that aren't the most "well-off" and hearing about stories from other countries. Not to mention the fact that this land was prepared by God to be a land of religious freedom. It is such a blessing. Although freedom does still come at a cost, it's one of the greatest blessings given us from God to defend. I'm grateful to those who give their lives to protect it. We are blessed to be there, so we must first and forever remember the source of it all; what's printed on the back of every paper bill we have: "In God We Trust". America!
This week was a lot of fun! I have never been so patriotic. ha I even bought a USA futbol jersey! I'm pretty sure that's the first patriotic-print clothing I have I ever had. ha It is pretty sweet! I got a good deal and it has my name and lucky number and all. Happy Birthday to me! ;) The fireworks here were INSANE! I will try to send some videos I recorded. It was like we were in the middle of a battle. Santa Ana is crazy. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was lighting things off...and of course they weren't the legal kind. What else is new here. ha They were flying everywhere! It was so much fun to look in every direction and just see them anywhere! It is definitely blows my experience last year out of the water. The protecting angels were busy for sure. Especially for the elders who apparently biked through the roughest area and bottle rockets were flying all around them as they rode. haha We're all safe, though!
Rosa and Vladimir are great! They came to church yesterday together and loved it once again. They already fit in so well, and it is obvious that God has been preparing them for a long time. We haven't been able to meet with Vladimir since that first night we met him, but on Sunday he told me that he can already see a difference. He says that even since that one night he feels different and things are working out in his life. They are both so great and I love them. :) Luckily, they love us, too :). The whole ward wants to help out with the yard and painting, so there is going to be a big ward service project at their house this week. We're excited for that! :) They are both reading and praying, too. They are so solid, and are truly seeking for the truth. We're very excited to keep working with them.
SO, last week, I wasn't able to even get in all the info, so another update is Juan Hernandez. The elders met with him a couple weeks before I showed up. They knocked into him and he let them in, for the first time, he says. He said he had talked with missionaries before, but it was more to bash with them and prove them wrong, because he was Agnostic. He would always look for the loophole in what they had to say. A few months ago, however, he was going through a really hard time and really wanted to know if, indeed, there was a God, because the God he knew was a tyrannous God that just always wanted to inflict pain on everyone. He understood him to be angry all the time and that he had already mapped out our destiny, so we have no choice, we are just going to heaven and hell so it doesn't really matter what we do. He said he just doesn't understand how a God could be that way. It didn't seem just and fair to him. Well, he figured things out in his life and decided that he was going to put it to the test, but that he didn't want to do it in time of need. He wanted to do it when everything was alright so it didn't seem like he was only doing it because he needed him. He wanted to be on good terms with him. He prayed one day and poured out his heart and the next day the missionaries showed up at his door.
Since that day, he genuinely has put things to the test. I came in right after the lesson of the Plan of Salvation and it blew his mind how just and fair God really is. From there, he has even grown more! He prayed about it all and has been reading the Book of Mormon like crazy and it has completely changed his perception on life and God. He can feel a relationship building between him and God. And he says it's not so much that he is worried about where he ends up, as much as he wanted to be on "good terms" with him and once he found out he really is there to really get to know him and follow what he wants him to do. We have been able to answer so many of his doubts and we taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how that is what God wants us to do in our lives. He told us to tell him about baptism and what he needs to do to be baptized. Yes, HE asked US about baptism. ha When we explained it all to him, he told us he wants to be baptized as soon as possible. O.O It was so cool! He said that he is sure this is the right path for him, and now he wants to do it! He just needs to come to church and he's set! He talked to his boss Saturday about getting Sundays off so he can go, and he will be telling us about how that goes Tuesday. He said nothing can change his mind. He said that the fact that he has come from almost Atheist and arguing with everyone about religion and always being angry to believing in God, feeling his love, learning of who he truly is-a loving Father in Heaven that wants the best for us-and being positive to the point that all of his friends are telling him "whatever you're doing, keep doing it" proves to him it is true. He is so solid and as soon as he comes to church twice and we finish teaching him, he will be baptized. We're so proud of him. The truth can not be denied if you truly put it to the test. He said, "If you don't feel it's right, it's because you haven't given it a chance." He's solid, and we are excited for him!
Please continue to keep them all in your prayers. We are teaching another woman named Pilar, who is the cousin of a reactivating member who is progressing really well, but once more happens with her, I will explain more...which will probably be next week. :)
I love you all very much! Thank you for all the birthday wishes. I love you very much and I am grateful for the support and love from you all. I can't wait to see you again. Wrapping up a mission is SO hard! I try not to think about it, but it doesn't help that everyone asks "how long have you been on your mission"-to which the rest of the conversation is inevitable! :/ This last week I had a dream about coming home EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! ha Ugh...I love you all very much and am very excited, but I sure am going to miss this. Please pray I can finish strong. Don't recommend going home to anyone! ha I love the mission and will continue to work hard until the end-as I have said many times. ha I appreciate very much the support and love from home, though. You are all so special, and I hope you are doing well! Take care and see you soon. :)
"And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike, so long as the Lord sees fit that we may live and inherit the land..." the Prophet Mosiah of the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 29:32)