Sunday, March 1, 2009

17 More Months to Go

I didn't get a chance to email yesterday, long story, including car troubles, President's Day, and waiting. But here I am today! Yesterday was Preparation Day. A family in the stake took us to the world's largest taxidermy museum. Needless to say, hunting is super popular out here.

Due to car problems, we spent the night in Farmington, with the sisters up there. Zone conference was today, and it was actually really convenient. Our car was fixed right as the closing prayer was said. Since we were in Farmington with the sisters up there last night, we went to their teaching appointments with them. It was fabulous. We taught the Esklin family about prophets - it was neat to have my testimony reconfirmed. After the lesson, we got to speak with this wonderful Navajo family about upcoming events/ceremonies. I learned about cradle boards. It apparently replicates the womb, and sometimes Navajo parents will carry the baby strapped in the board on their backs. Their two daughters are recently participating in a ceremony which marks the transition from girlhood to womanhood. Their great grandmother is a Navajo medicine woman. The ceremony takes place over 6 days, during which they must run three times a day. They sleep in the medicine woman's hogan one of the nights, and she will sing with them for about 9 hours. The girls must not go to sleep, because it will mess up the medicine woman's song. She blesses every part of their body, from their head to their toes. She will sing about the mountains and the future. They even wear traditional ceremonial clothing. On one of the days, they bake a cornmeal cake with a special bowl that must ALWAYS face East, because that direction is Holy. Any other direction would bring bad spirits, I think. The medicine woman will take cornmeal from each of the four corners of the bowl. When the ceremony is over, the girl carries a bowl full of goodies throughout the crowds. Brother Esklin, their father, who is a recent convert, showed us pictures from this family tradition. It was FASCINATING to see how incredibly similar parts of this ceremony are to some things in the LDS religion. As a human family, it proves there is strength and comfort in these very specific things. Every culture has truth. It makes me wonder how much Christ taught the Ancient Americans when he visited this continent, and what traditions and teachings may have been passed on. On the car ride home, one of the sisters mentioned that she had heard of LDS members feeling incredibly uncomfortable during a Zuni wedding because it was SOOO similar to the LDS temple ceremony. What a beautiful culture.

I love my companion. She always stresses that we are not here to take away what people believe, but to add unto it. Mormon culture is not what we want to impose, but faith in Jesus Christ. I've noticed her approach to this especially when we are teaching Born Again Baptists, but it really goes for Indian traditions as well. Sister Crossley is incredible at turning a negative anti-Mormon atmosphere into showing a common faith in Christ. What a talent.

On Valentine's Day, Sister Crossley and I both received letters from our fathers. It was so neat to talk about our families. We shared part of our letters and had one of the most powerful companionship studies! Dad, thank you for talking about recognizing the Lord's hands in our lives. I have felt so needy for blessings lately, that I have made it a goal to be more observant of the Lord's tender mercies. I have a strong testimony of faith...and as I talked to my companion about EXPECTING blessings (especially when they are already the Lord's will) we had an increased desire to plead with the Lord for the work to progress, for our investigators to feel the same urgency we feel, and to see baptisms. We know that this is the Lord's will, so we just need to EXPECT the blessings now. Many times blessings are predicated on asking for them and using faith. I am reminded of Alma the Elder who prayed for his son to turn around. We can pray on behalf of others...and miracles can happen. Sometimes, I am hesitant to pray for others, because I fear that personal agency will negate what I ask for...but really the Lord can intervene according to the faith of others.

Anyway, Sister Crossley's dad gave her a long scripture challenge ranging from Moses/Abraham, to D&C 84, and others. So as sisters, my companion and I have started studying what her dad suggested for us. It has been fascinating so far.

Thank you so much for the Valentine's cookies and cards. They mean so much to me. I wish I had more time to write you. I finally got all my thank you notes written though....except for the one family who gave me a CD their kids drew me pictures...and never wrote their name on the card. So if you're reading this.. THANK YOU! Since we didn't have a car on Valentine's Day, we made sugar cookies and delivered them to our investigators/less many of them as we could reasonably walk to anyway. Sometimes people just need to know they are loved before they will listen, I think.

Also, our ward mission leader is AWESOME! He reminds everyone of a cowboy out of some western movie. He gave us valentine's and is so helpful with a million things. I don't have time to explain more, but maybe sometime I can tell you about him. His conversion story is miraculous!

Well, the library is going to close soon, so I better run. But I love you SO MUCH. Sorry I can't write more. Have a wonderful week!

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