Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Its a Bob Marley Christmas!

    Feliz Natal (merry Christmas) from the land where palm trees sway! I heard Papai Noel (Santa) laughing over one of the loudspeakers that sit on top of advertisement cars here and it scared me out of my wits. Santa and Português advertisement voices are not a good mix, let me tell you. It made me tremble even more at the thought that such a voice could belong to the man who sees me when I'm sleeping, knows when I'm awake, and comes down my chimney in the night. 

    But aside from me new-found fear of St. Nick, this Christmas is turning out to be just swell. I have the best companion in the whole wide world! Sister V. Silva is such a delight that she can't possible last more than a transfer. So much goodness must be shared with others in the mission, I know. But OH! How I wish I could keep her forever and take her home with me after the mission! She's like Haagen Dazs ice cream at the end of a long, rough day. Probably because she lives off of ice cream. Every day while we're walking, she'll stop and look at me with a worried expression on her face and say, "Oh, Sister, I would you mind if I bought us some sorvete? It sounds so good right now!" And of course, being the obedient little trainee that I am, I comply. I'm going to be a whale by the end of this transfer.
   I haven't laughed so much since, I can't remember when. Sister V. Silva has a delightful sense of humor and we're always setting each other off until we're on the floor in tears. She has a sweet, easy, loving spirit that draws people to her. She's so adorable and short that people want to take care of her, and so naturally caring for others that people want her to take care of them. I'm constantly in jaw-dropping awe as I watch her throughout the day. When she talks to people, they WANT to listen to her, and they WANT to accept her invitations. She'll invite them to church and they say, with genuine disappointment, "I can't, I have something else that day." And then, when her big brown eyes sadden and she nods her sad acceptance while turning to walk away, they melt and say, "Well, hang on! Maybe I can...." It's quite funny, really. I'm so proud to be standing beside her always and I feel extremely blessed for the chance to be trained by her. She is exactly the kind of missionary I want to be.

Christmas is not as big a deal here as it is in the US. Yeah, people like it and they celebrate it, but it's not the same. Everyone looks forward to New Year's Eve and Carnival more than Christmas. I think Christmas is so wonderful in the US largely because it's cold and people want to be close. Here, it's always hot and people just want to drink and party out-of-doors. When I was explaining what Christmas is like in my family to Sister V. Silva, she got that same look on her face that she gets when she needs to buys us ice cream and she said, "Aw, Sister! I want to have Christmas like that!"  She's from Curitiba, where it actually does get cold, so she can appreciate the thought of hot cocoa and twinkling lights on a Christmas tree in a dark house. Also, her accent sounds very Irish. Weird, huh? I guess that's just how they talk in Curitiba. It's very pleasant sounding. 

   I had a very precious experience this past week that took me by surprise and made me cry. We were in the home of a woman whose son was baptized with her about a year ago, but who now wants nothing to do with the church. We were with them for a long time, trying to talk to the son and see if we could help, but he was very full of anger. Eventually, we just offered a prayer and left. As we were leaving, Edite (the mother), followed us outside to thank us and I could see the heartbreak in her eyes. As usual, I wished I knew what to say that could comfort her. But I remembered that the Savior's love isn't always expressed through words, and so I gave her a hug. As I hugged her, I felt the Savior's love for her so strongly that it took me by surprise. She must have felt this change, too, because she clung to me more tightly and began crying. In that moment, I felt that I was merely the humble on-looker of a very sacred and personal embrace between this woman and her Savior. It was the most beautiful experience I've had here on the mission. I have a testimony that the Lord uses us to answer the prayers of others. I have a testimony that if you are open and willing, He WILL use you to be His hands in the lives of those around you. Last night I was reading an old Liahona article by Elder Eyring where he said that the best way to recognize your own blessings is to help another person. He also said that every day he prays for an opportunity to help someone that day.
   This Christmas, I challenge you all, whether you are religious or not, to seek opportunities to help another person and be grateful for the blessings that you have. Life is SO GOOD! I'm in love with it. And I'm in love with the mission! Who'd have thought I could be so happy when I'm not home for the Holidays?  I have to echo the words of Sister Madison Sackley and say that, truly, Happiness begins at the end of your comfort zone.

I love you all! Family, I'm wetting my pants with excitement to talk to you TOMORROW!!!!

-Sister Whitaker

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