Hola! Ha, the title is a reference to the fact that I literally eat
only fried food out here. At least at members’ houses. Fried tacos,
fried quesadillas, fried bread, beans, rice, all meat. Wooo! It’s
good, but I’m going to need a serious cleanse after the mission (ha).
A couple of things: I have yet to get Bronxed–aka I have yet to step
in poop. I have stepped in vomit though, so maybe that counts as being
I got an ashtray dumped on me from a window with about 20 cigarette
butts. I thought about “blessed are Jose who are persecuted for my
names sake.” I think it was more because I am white, or maybe an
accident. But I looked up and laughed and whispered, “it’s going to
take a lot more than that to get me upset!” And I went on my merry way
and we had a ROCKIN day.
I had mangoo for the first time this week!! It was so good. It’s
basically smashed up platanos with fried salami and eggs. It’s a
classic Dominican food–so fun to check it off the mission bucket
I had my first split with none other than…drum roll…Cecilia
Wilkes!!! I mean Sister Wilkes. My buddy from BYU with Karlie and
Shalie!!! That was remarkably fun.
And, as always, the Lord is SO good. So mindful. So kind. So
merciful–radically, in fact. He puts people in our path and literally
I just walk into blessings. It’s incredible. He is everything!
We visited a really old lady in our ward named Maria de Reyes Tejena.
She is 92 or something and probably 4 ft 6 inches tall. She is the
coolest and sweetest! She’s still kicking and comes to church every
Sunday (which is about an hour away) and lives far from the bus and
train stations, too especially for a 91 year old on foot. She also to
the temple every Saturday (during the summers, because she’ll “die in
the cold” as she said). I just love her so much. She she has an
electric keyboard and when we asked her what she does during the days,
She turned to the piano and turned on the recorded songs. It was
hilarious!! It was super loud polka twinkle twinkle little star and
all the nursery rhyme songs. She told us she dances, too. Oh, I just
love her. Her parents died at 106 and 104, and she is just living
everyday to the fullest at 92!
She told us how she eats a ton of fruit
every morning and LOVES fruit. Her dad had two giant fruit farms in
Ecuador, where she is from, and he would work and work and work on
those farms. He would rotate the crops so he could go to both in their
seasons of harvest. She had such sweet memories of him, and she
talked about him with a special reverence and love and awe in her
voice. It was beautiful. I thought of my own dad, his determination
to provide for us, and also be the best and most caring dad in the
world–to take care of his family, protect and provide and preside as
well as nurture and love. The world needs more good men. And I’m so
grateful to have some of them in my life. They mean the world to me
and it gives me hope for the world to see righteous men working and
providing and loving.
She talked about faith, and my mind went to Moroni 7:33. She talked
about how she has faith, how she submits to life–or the things that
come her way. And she does so cheerfully. Besides dancing to the polka
music, she studies the scriptures and books all day long. She is going
to have a lot to take with her in the next life! She studies and reads
and really seems to “feast on the words of Christ.” What an
Oh, I just love her. She spent a lot of time talking to us about how
we need to be busy. It is when we don’t have things to do or are just
too lazy to do the that we are unhappy, unhealthy, and go crazy. She
spends all her time studying and reading, and sewing and making. It is
so good. She is so good. I am reminded of my mom–who is no where near
92 years old–who is always busy with her projects and her service in
the church and her classes at Saddleback College and her passions that
are growing and thriving. Her projects in the home and her knowledge
and increased skill set with computers and graphics and sewing and
designing and creating are such a blessing to her AND us! She is
blessing our lives and our home along with all the people she meets
(she is an awesome example and the light of Christ just shines out of
her) in her classes and her adventures. Oh mama. I love her, I am so
grateful for the examples I have in my life who keep themselves busy
and working and trying and growing. I love them. I want to be like
them. I will be like them.
One more thing: everything is a blessing–everything. And if you can’t
see why, take a breather and stare at it for a second or a minute or
three days until you figure it out.
We did a lot of less active lookups this week–a new bishop is on the
way. One day I was thinking a lot about a woman we visit named
Yolanda. We were in her area and then I asked Hermana Card if we
could go over. It was so good that we went over, she was lonely and
her visitng teachers were supposed to come over, but they didn’t. She
was sad about this and didn’t know why they hadn’t come, and was so
grateful for our visit. She fed us these little fried things that had
lentils and eggs in the middle with fried corn flour around it. It was
different…but good, I guess. Ha, I’m always so stoked to try
We went to Cesaria’s that night for dinner and we had her famous
tacos–fried of course. Ha! Love it. They we’re so good. It was a
special treat because her daughter–Johanna–was visiting. Johanna is
about 40 but is mentally disabled and has the mind of about an 8 year
old. She is the sweetest thing. I love her so much. She loves to hold
hands and give high fives. I love her so much! I can’t understand her
very well, but we ended up playing a game that was kind of like she
would point at something and I would look and say the thing and then
I’d get a high five. It was awesome. Hermana Card and Ceasaria were in
the kitchen cooking, and I was just enjoying this incredible blessing
of being with a complete angel. Oh man. The Lord is so good. I loved
that so much–what a pure spirit wit such a pure heart and pure love.
No wonder the The Lord commands us to become like little children!
Because they truly are THE best! So sweet, tender, “easily entreated,”
quick to forgive and even quicker to love. I feel so blessed that I
had that opportunity right there to see such a pure spirit–to spend
time with such an angel.
When I was on a split with sister Wilkes, we did some lookups and
found a little Dominican woman. She invited us in and poor sister
Wilkes looked at me and said, “this is all you!” She is an English
speaking missionary. It was so bomb!! She is so awesome and kept
saying thank you for coming because she is lonely and was siting for
missionaries. Some missionaries had dropped off a card and their
number the previous month, but they never came back. She said she
wants missionaries in her home more.
I found out that she was baptized
14 years ago in Santa Domingo and has been in Philadelphia visiting
her sister. It is so humbling to be used by the Lord to see see people
who need a visit most. I love being an instrument in his hands.
We–sister Wilkes and I–had dinner with a woman named Sister Iris in
her home. She is from Jamaica and is so funny and sweet and fun and
awesome! I was so excited to meet her, just an innocent and pure
intentioned soul. What a blessing it was to be in her home! She fed us
richly–biscuits and chicken and vegetables and a delicious eggplant
casserole. Man. And then homemade carrot cake for dessert. It was my
first dessert here! Man, everything was so great. It was so funny
because sister Iris thought I was so beautiful and kept talking to me
and we just became two peas in a pod right away. Ha, we even started
planning a trip to Jamaica together after my mission! And she was dead
serious–she told me again and again! We shared a thought about
personal revelation and talked about how general conference is a
wonderful opportunity for us to receive personal revelation. She said
that she had a question she was preparing for it, and then she shared
it with us. She asked us about baptisms for the dead–not so much why,
but how. It was a great question. She has been baptized a year and has
done baptisms three or four times, but just doesn’t quite understand
how (maybe why, too). We shared some scriptures in 1 Corinthians and 2
Peter (I think) as well as in doctrine and covenants. It was great.
She still didn’t understand after we explained about binding on earth
and binding in heaven, the doctrine behind this ordinance with the
plan of salvation, and the scriptures. But she was so sweet and just
leaned back and smiled and said, “You know, I am in this church. And
I have no intention to leave it. Ever. And I know the Book of Mormon
is true, so I know is is true, too. Even if I don’t understand it!
(Laughing to herself) I know I will understand one day. It is the
Lord’s timing. And one day I will know.”
What faith! I wish all the people we visited had this. She is so good!
So kind, so patient and humble. I love her so much. When we left, she
walked us to the bus stop and would not leave until we she saw us step
on the bus with her own eyes. It was so sweet and so funny. She was
way protective of us, and so worried! One man, when he saw us looking
at the street signs and trying to figure out the buses and schedules,
asked us if we needed help getting somewhere. Poor guy. This sweet
Sister Iris would not have it and chewed him out harshly. It was sad.
Poor guy was just trying to help, but Sister Iris would not have it.
Talk about a Mama Bear!
On the way to church, we stopped at the Bodega for Yenifer (our
investigator) to get change (the only way she could was to buy
something). I was giggling to myself during the sacrament as I
thanked Heavenly Father for letting us get there in time for the
sacrament and that Yenifer was there. All this as Yenifer sat next to
me sipping her vanilla coffee. Ha! At least she was there. We’re
working on the word of wisdom. Ha!
We met with a sister in the ward this week and before we settled into
home, we were off walking going to see her friends. I was trying so
hard to understand her (she talks insanely fast) and before I knew it,
we were walking down the street together to visit her friend and teach
her. Wow! Talk about walking into a blessing.
The friend is named Kati (like “caught-i”) and her kind-of spouse,
Alberto. They’ve been together for 20 years but haven’t been married.
They are awesome. AWESOME. They used to attend church (I don’t
remember which one) and then Kati had some questions and totally
called out her preacher on what he was saying and teaching. She
realized that there were things in the bible that He was teaching
wrong, or things that were left our entirely. So they left that church
and began a deep search in the bible for answers. It was just
incredible. We shared the message of the restoration, and they were so
receptive. I will always remember sitting in their tiny one room
apartment, huddled together sitting down, the fridge, bed, tv, pantry,
and closet all right there with us, and having Alberto say, “Wait, let
me turn off the tv, I need to have no distractions.” They were so
attentive and quiet and quietly gave an “amen” here and there when we
would share something they felt was true. It was powerful.
I had quite a special experience, too, because I was struggling so
much to understand them (and everyone). I was really trying hard to
understand and to say things grammatically correct, but was
struggling–at least I wasn’t doing as well as I usually do. I was
praying in my heart that I would be able to remember the first vision
in Spanish, that I could share my testimony and present the doctrine
correctly so that the Spirit could testify. I paused and apologized
for my Spanish and Kati said, “no, you are doing well. I can
understand you, and I know that God is with you because I can
understand what you are saying.” Oh my gosh!! Answer to prayer on so
many levels. I giggled because that confirmed that my Spanish was
poor, but my heart was so full because she could understand.
Truthfully, I wish my Spanish was perfect, but who cares!? She
understood! And the Lord was with me. And I could feel it and, more
importantly, she could, too. It was magical and powerful.
After we shared our testimonies, we read from Moroni 10:3-5 and
Hermana Card and I promised them, with Moroni, that they would receive
an answer and that these things are true. It was powerful. And the
best part was that after, Alberto looked at us and smiled and said, “I
feel like I am Jose smith. I am just Like him, looking for the truth.”
It was so perfect! I was just so grateful! They seemed to get it–yes,
they ARE like Jose smith! We all are, at one point or another! And we
all need to know the truth, and are able to know. I love the gospel
and the Lord so much. He is so merciful! He shows us the way! He helps
us get there! He loves us. We invited them to general conference and
to church and to read and they accepted it all. The Lord is so good. I
feel like I literally walked into a gold mine of blessings–to be
there with these investigators, to be there during their moment of
understanding and to feel the spirit with them. It is such a blessing
to be a missionary. I love it.
When we met with Daisy this week, everything in her house was more in
order. Her grandson was in a great mood and was so cute to us. During
our lesson, her 25 year old crazy son brought us the New Testament and
quietly put it on the table while mumbling to himself. Her grandson,
Dameon, was drawing sharks and sea creatures on this giant box. It was
darling. We read alma 34 together and had pauses here and there to
talk about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation. At
the end, we invited her to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be
baptized. She answered yes with a “duh” essence to it. It was
unreal!! I have extended that invitation so many times, practiced it,
practiced my pronunciation and extended it over and over, but never
had anyone agreed. And she did! So wholeheartedly and so “duh”ish. I
loved it! We extended the date of November 8th, and she said that back
to us, “November 8th,” slowly, like she was tasting and savoring it.
Man, it was beautiful. I am so grateful.
We also found a little old woman named Maria Flores one day. Oh, she
was so darling. She is tiny–probably weighs some 75 or 80 pounds.
Super skinny and super short–probably about 4 ft 6 inches. We knocked
on her door to see if she knew her neighbors (on the list) and she
opened up and was practically shaking by the energy it took her to
just stand there. She didn’t know them, but was curious as to who we
were and we started talking and she invited us in. It was wonderful.
We shared a message about the plan of salvation and she kept saying
amen and blessing us and crossing her chest throughout it all. She was
also crying through the whole lesson–which was about 15-20 minutes.
She was so lonely, she told us, and was just so grateful for our
visit. She said she knew God had sent us to see her. I love her. I
love my God! He always blesses me so richly and puts me in the right
place at the right time to meet the most incredible people! Maria was
very, very lonely, and it was humbling to be in her home and share a
gospel message. Oh, how I love going about on my Father’s business!
The Lord helps me see. Everything is beautiful. And I feel like it was
always beautiful. But I just needed His hands to hold me and sweetly
open my eyes. I am seeing more everyday. Oh, I love my Lord and my
God! My Father and my King. I am so grateful to Him. I owe Him more
than all, but all is what I have to give. So that is what I’m going to
Have a great week and enjoy conference!! I am STOKED.