Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Leaving Belize was even harder than I had anticipated. Supposedly I had plenty of time to prepare myself... but parting from those that I had worked with every single week for 8 months... was harder than I could have ever imagined.
I left their loving arms and care....
...and was rushed into my parent's. :)
The whole week was such a glorious confirmation that the Lord truly knows and loves me... because He blessed me with exactly what I needed at the end of my mission... just He knew how hard it would be for me to end.... He eased the blow by blessing me to be able to go with my parents to some of the dearest persons on earth.
It was certainly a culture shock for mom and dad.. but despite their confusion, exhaustion, and surprise... they were clearly completely delighted by the whole experience!
We first went to Santla Tecla... and upon entering the neighborhood... we were immediately swarmed by the darling "Flandez Monkies" yelling "Hermana Clark! Hermana Clark!! ESTA AQUI!?!? VENGAN!!!" and were blessed to see the beautiful Flandez family doing even BETTER than before.
They LOVE the Christmas gifts from Sister Woods.... thanks Dev!
Brother Flandez has continued to fight his addictions and to truly apply the gospel and Atonement in his life.... and he is winning. It is so humbling and touching to see how beautifully dilligent this family is in reading and praying together as a family, as a couple, and personally. They NEVER miss their family home evenings... and they are being clearly blessed. Brother Flandez is preparing to receive the Melchizedek priesthood this month.. and they are anticipating going to the temple next year. It was so touching to visibly see that everything we had been inspired to promise them in those dark trying times... was really coming to pass.
We then went to visit the Vargas family... my rolemodels, examples, heros... true saints. Unable to call before... it was a suprise arrival... and Sister Vargas immediately started to run around to fix us a wonderful classic El Salvadoranian lunch. She cannot stop giving. It was Dad's best birthday meal ever. :)
I was so pleased to hear that they had immediately rushed to the temple right after it was dedicated.... and were sealed as a family. :) Brother Vargas is now in the bishopric of the new ward... and they bore beautiful and powerful testimonies to us of the law of tithing... and of the blessings of obedience. I was so tender to see that humility, purity, dilligence, and faith and to feel of the Spirit in that home... and with my parents. What a beautiful and edifying experience in the Vargas home.
Then... as if we hadn't been spoiled, welcome, and plenty contented... we were surprised by Sister Aracely when she had everything ready to make.... PAPUSAS!!!
We spent a beautiful morning at the beach...
and were completely mezmerized by the sights...
...and the sounds. :)
Then we got to go surpise the sweet little Sandoval family.
I was SO thrilled to be informed that shortly after I left... David was baptized. Then... a while later... Yolanda was baptized. I will never forget Yolanda's face when she saw us pull up... and how she teared up and exclaimed, "Oh! I thought you'd never come back and that I'd never get to tell you..... I GOT BAPTIZED!!!"... and wept as she expressed her love of the gospel and how incredibly happy she is now and how she is preparing her geneology work and and herself for the temple. David is now preparing for a mission. What a clear confirmation that the Lord truly was hearing our prayers and fasts during that time... and He answered them...perfectly.
We then got to visit the WONDERFUL Diaz family... who unmercifully spoiled us and taught us what true hospitality is.
Upon hearing that it was Dad's birthday... the next time we saw them... Brother Diaz presented dad with a darling hat.
It was so sweet to see my Andrea again. (please see previous blog from Santla Tecla from our stubborn miracle girl. :) She is POWERFUL) She was baptized less than a week after I left.. and was incredible to hear her testimony and how she's grown since then. It was hard to even remember the girl that kept slamming the door from us... so clearly anxious to avoid us... and now look at her!
It was such a tender visit.. and I fell in love with them all over again. They truly love and live the gospel.
We then had a lovely evening with President and Sister Cordon.
We then headed over to.... my Candelaria. :) First stop: Martinez Family.
This week has been an incredibly difficult year for the Martinez family... especially Sister Martinez. We had a very sobering visit with her... cried with her... and my parents were able to share their testimonies with her. It was truly bitter sweet.
Despite everything thing that has happened... this family has continued strong. They have not wavered from what they have been taught... and are keeping their covenants. Brother Martinez is in the Elder Quorum presidency, and Sister Martinez serves in the primary. They are preparing to go to the temple hopefully at the end of this year.
It was surreal but GREAT to walk the streets of Candelaria again... but this time with my parents! The ward is really growing... and I was just in awe to see the impressions and visions I received the first time I walked into that tiny little chapel... be coming to pass. By the end of the year they will have 8 missionaries in the field... and the new chapel will be dedicated this next month.
We were greeted SO warmly by the ward... it was very much like... coming home.
As is the life in the mission... (or, perhaps life in general..depending on the vision..) this week was showered with tender mercies. One of the sweetest was mom being able to sign with this beautiful deaf couple who live in the mountains, can't read, but diligently attend church and live the gospel. They were all thrilled and touched to be able to communicate together. It was beautiful.
We ended the day with a visit to Sister Blanca. Mom had send her a Christmas star my first Christmas.. that she loved and adored... but I was unaware of exactly why she was SO enchanted by this simple wooden star... until she confessed to me that night.. that after years of trying...
the simple statement was finally coming to pass. A child is soon to be born to them.:)
Mom got to try her hand at making tortillas...
The next day we tarried up to my blissful PAJONAL!
We got to see Juan Carlos (who is still making the 1.5 hr each way travel nearly every week to church- going strong!) and his adorable parents in their beautiful home.
Then we got to visit the Axume family! Though they have been wavering a bit the last year...they were estatic to see us.. and as always... treated us like family. Made us feel right at home.
Then we went back to San Salvador... to prepare for the best of it all....
Temple day with the Cardona family.
It was such a sweet reunion with them in Candelaria... and I was so suprised and honored with Carolina asked me to be her guide.
Seeing little Francisco uncontrollably weeping from his overwhelming joy.. brought back to me the clear recollection of the first night Sister Bautista and I got to Candelaria... when 11 year old Francisco (he and Erick were baptized alone 2 years before his parents)ran up to us and asked, "Will you please come visit my parents?!!" Now look at them! How powerful is the pure faith of a child?
Did I mention Sylvia is now putting in her mission papers? :)
There really are no sufficient verbal or written descriptions of the tender bliss and feelings that all felt there that day with this now eternal family. So... I will put many pictures... in hopes of allowing a slight glimpse into the joy we had together.
We then had our last stop with Jorge and Rosa. We were in heaven to be together again. They are such a beautiful and elect family... and have continued active.
Jorge gave mom a beautiful painting of the visit of Christ to the Americas that he had done himself.... she just cried and cried. No spanish needed.
Then... we were off the next day. Mindy came to see us during our 5 hours layover in Houston and took us to the temple. BEAUTIFUL.
Then... we were... home.
Thank you all for your good examples, support, letters, and especially...prayers. All were recognized, remembered, and felt during this incredible experience. I am so proud and grateful of where I come from... and I am acclimating to being here again.
In even more ways than the climate.
How is it possible to be painfully "homesick"....while at home?
I am determined to move forward with faith... and I trust that many more opportunities to serve and progress are to come. I am trying to follow the theology of Paul as he states in Philippians 4:11,
"For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content"