Wa'gwaan Family Friends and Fans!
It's a hot one here in Lucea these days - don't believe the forecast, with the humidity add at least ten degrees. But out of the depths of heat comes GREAT NEWS! Karl Graham, the gentleman who found us on the street and asked us to pray for him and fell in love with the plan of salvation pamphlet -- HE WAS BAPTIZED YESTERDAY! We met him two weeks ago, and he was baptized right after church yesterday at Watson Teller Beach. Contrary to popular belief, beach baptisms are not as cool as font baptisms. Fonts are way more spiritual, and due to the great and spacious building that was shouting things about Selassie from the water and chanting unpleasant remarks to us Christians, it wasn't exactly as we had hoped. But Karl was strong and it didn't phase him. He said the day before his baptism he had met a guy on the street who started talking to him about another religion and said we were false prophets and everything, and for a bit he had decided he didn't want to go through with it, but he told us he realized it was Satan trying to deter him from a righteous path and so he overcame it and couldn't wait to be baptized. It was a wonderful day, the whole branch weathered the long and arduous walk to the beach and supported him. Huzzah! Our work is just beginning here now - we've gotta be sure we teach him more, fellowship him, and find more people to follow in his footsteps! (PS We don't have ward missionaries, so all of the after-baptism teaching is done by us missionaries. At least we'll stay busy!) Karl had been unemployed when he found him, bad luck followed by bad luck. The day before he was baptized he got a phone call about two job opportunities and he called us to tell us he knew it was a blessing from God. After we had given him a Book of Mormon with our testimonies inside, he called us bright and early the next morning singing our testimonies to us over the phone. He's a great guy - we're lucky to have met him!
People are very superstitious here. One investigator had been dodging us, and finally she ran into us in the city and confessed that she thought we were a cult who sacrificed people in the temple and drank blood and all of that. Apparently a tv program here had a former member go on and say we were vampires, so a lot of people believe that too. I'm glad we could clear that up. They also think that if water gets on their heads they'll get sick, so they wear rags on their heads when it rains. Bizarre much? We taught this guy Stefan this week who grew up in the states, and used to think he was Jesus and believes the Bible but doesn't believe Christ was resurrected or that most of the apostles existed. He's a character, I tell ya. Pauline, a lady we're teaching, loves the church and we're gonna extend her a baptism date soon. She couldn't make to church yesterday, so she sent her daughter and her two sons. They all came to the baptism, and her daughter Shontel asked for her own Book of Mormon and asked what chapter she should read first. Totally awesome - and we taught this guy Eddie who wants to be baptized as soon as possible. He lives far away and hasn't ever been to church, so we'll work harder on getting him to keep his commitments, but he LOVED the Restoration DVD - "This answers all the questions I've been having" ... very cool.
Some things we've been doing is writing letters to the members in the branch encouraging them to fight the good fight. We had a less active back at church for the first time since we've been here because of the letters, so that was cool. We've also been rewarding ourselves based on our key indicators for the day (ie if we get 3 new investigators we get to buy some ice cream). It's surprisingly effective, haha. We got to go to Bull's Bay and Fort Charlotte on P Days. Fort Charlotte is the #1 tourist attraction in Lucea - which made me crack up. It's so run down - I'd try to describe it but I couldn't even if I tried. You'll see pictures eventually.
We had one guy we were teaching, Leroy, the one who had a problem and wouldn't tell us and was really struggling to find work ... well he called us and said he can't meet with us anymore because the Church of God is paying his bills, so he's going to that church now. It broke my heart - it literally felt like someone breaking up with us. They do that a lot here we've noticed, buy their congregations. They build a shoddy house for someone and then make them pledge their devotion to their church so they can get tithes from them. They make them pay tithes or they don't let them come to church. Churches are a fashion show too here - much more a social thing than a spiritual. We've received many comments from people who say they quit going to churches because they felt judged, or they thought it was just a franchise. Many people on the street just ask us for money, or ask us what we'll give them if they get baptized. I respond with "Joy in this world and eternal life in the world to come." They usually just walk away, money more important than salvation when they're dealing with the reality of Jamaica I suppose. I do not judge them though - I've often thought "What would I think if I was raised here? What would my priority be if I was this person?" After all, a lot of people here don't even know their ages or their last names, let alone have a concept of their divine worth. It's hard for them to picture anything glorious, or being loved by a perfect Father in Heaven, when they don't know their father here and anything glorious is defined by how much it cost. It's sad though, when we know we have the greatest gift they could possibly receive. But, like President Monson said - "Make the stand for right, even if you stand alone."
There's been some HEAVY RAIN. It totally blows our days because no one is on the street to contact, and everyone cancels their appointments because it is raining. That makes it rough, and I guess its just the beginning. The heat is really the hardest thing to deal with - it exhausts you and you sweat buckets all day everyday. I guess I'm getting used to it, as much as you could get used to such a thing.
Okay okay, about this civil unrest business. Don't worry about it - apparently it is all over the news. It is on the other end of the island, and Lucea is the best place to be right now. They said they expected stuff to start going down around labor day, but the elders in Kingston and Spanish Town are on lockdown and they're keeping a good watch on everything. We stayed in last Monday night just to be safe. I don't feel in danger and I'm not worried. The Lord protects us as long as we are faithful and obedient, and I'm lucky to be here in Lucea. We'll keep you updated if anything else happens - just say your prayers they catch this guy! Speaking of prayers, thank you to all who have been sending prayers our way. I can feel them! I can do what I do because of them! Keep them comin!
Okay my commitment for you all is to HAVE HOPE! Our hope is manifest in our confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance. It is a belief and expectation that something will occur. Make an effort to HAVE HOPE this week, and I know it will bless your life. The church is true - Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and I'm so grateful for his faith in turning to God in humble prayer and asking for the answer he knew he would receive. I'm grateful for my calling - for the mantle that has been placed on me that I am trying every so desparately to fill. I know my Savior lives, and I know that it is only through His grace that I can be made perfect. We all need the atonement the same amount - President Monson needs it just as much as a criminal - for without His atoning sacrifice none of us could make it. I love Jesus Christ, and I love His gospel and I know it really is EASY to follow - once we have that change of heart. It truly is the only source of eternal happiness.
Alright I'm off, but before I go I thought I'd send some lyrics that I've written since I've been here =) Take Care. I LOVE YOU ALL!
driving up this mountain view
its hard to see what men can do
i never knew i had so much
man i was so out of touch
middle of the night hear the screams
see the sleepers in the street
wonder what i'm doing here
called to serve but still i fear
yes i have a message
but i am just a girl
i can barely speak you know
but He can save the world
crowded skies - crowded streets
lovely seas and lovely heat
high hopes and higher dreams
on an island fit for a King
everywhere's a souvenir
memories of my time here
miracles within my grasp
hidden under broken glass
a people fall so far
but a person they can change
in my heart i'm set apart
to save a life today