So I started this week off with a terrible experience. I made pancakes Tuesday morning for me and my companion. They were perfect. Probably the best ones I have made on the mission. I was quite proud. I buttered them well, places them on 2 plates, and then lathered them in syrup that my last companion left for me. We blessed the food and the we both took monster bites.... only to discover an odd flavor about the cakes. Something was not right. Something tasted wrong, old, even FERMENTED. Yes unfortunately my syrup had become alcoholic and we were forced to "abandon pancake-ship", dumping them in the garbage. I was so sad and quite hungry.
THE TEMPLE WAS DEDICATED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am so absolutely, amazingly blessed to be here serving in Manaus, the best mission ever! Okay, now I explain what occurred this last week.
FIRST: There was the cultural celebration on Saturday which was a blast! President Uchtdorf presided with Elder Cook and it was really funny because the translator had a ton of difficulty understanding him in the arena because of all the resonance. So President Uchtdorf took the translator under his arm (he is a big man) and they stood side by side! It was quite funny because Pres Uchtdorf is really a playful guy and was just gitty to be in the rainforest. He was shocked when people told him that Saturday was actually a mildly cold day! He even ended up taking off his suit jacket because it was just too hot for him!
Then we left the arena after he spoke and the dances started but we really did not get to see them. But we definitely heard the music. It sounded like a ton of fun! The only things we really saw were displayed on a TV outside the arena but there were too many people watching so we did not see much. Though, what I saw was fantastic. Eventually we, the missionaries entered singing CALLED TO SERVE in Portuguese and it was fantastic. I instantly felt a special spirit about the celebration and I was so grateful to be there. The missionaries ended by encircling the outside edge of the arena and we then watched the end of the program, which was a reenactment of the Caravans from Manaus to the São Paulo Temple. Normally this trip used to take took 15 days!!!! 7 by boat and 8 on buses. So they depicted a boat entering the arena and traveling across the rivers of the amazon.Then they all got in a van that would take them to the temple. On the way, the van broke down and they became stranded so the men got out and tried to push the van. But it did not work. So they prayed. They prayed with all their faith and tried again, but this time they had angels helping, represented by us missionaries. I cried! Oh how I cried seeing that. I am actually crying at the computer telling you about this because these people in Manaus are so special. They truly gave EVERYTHING they had to the Lord just as the pioneers did in the US in the 1800's. They are a faithful, wonderful people who deserve this temple.
The next day was the dedication and I watched all three sessions. President Uchtdorf told of how missionaries first came to Manaus. In 1979 Manaus was part of the Rio de Janeiro mission and the president was hounded by the few members in the city of how they wanted missionaries. But the church kept denying there request. Well eventually the area authority told the members they could have missionaries under 3 conditions. 1. FREE airfare for just 2 missionaries 2. The missionaries were to do no finding but all they should do is teach those who the members prepared. 3. They could only stay for 4 months. At that time there was less than 50 members in this city. They saved the money for the airfare and then fulfilled all the requests of the church to have missionaries. The 2 missionaries were sent. The work EXPLODED and those 2 missionaries stayed in the city until the end of their missions. Since then, the missionaries have never left the city.
The people in Manaus love Christ and his work. They love his teachings and truly do try there very best even when their best really is not that much. Often I see missionaries complaining about a bad lunch on the mission. I myself have done that. But then I remember that often that lunch is the best they have for us and it is my privilege to eat with them. This week a member who is divorced, single, with 2 sons, and jobless asked to give us lunch. It pained me to see that but she recounted of how her humble mother who has nothing treats lunch with the missionaries as a sacred feast. It is her favorite day of the month because she gets to feed the servants of her Savior. This single mother in my ward told us of how she wants to feel that same thing her mother describes in her humble house as well. That tore me up inside. I hope I can live up to be exactly how they see me; a Servant of Christ. So I am not perfect and as my president made clear to me this week I make MANY mistakes. But I do really want to be better. I pray for that and look to be that way every day even though sometimes I do fail.
Back to the temple dedication. It was very special to watch. Especially because I watched it with many of those whom I have baptized. There perhaps is no greater joy than seeing those you have baptized, worthy to enter the Temple of the Lord.
The night before the dedication I got really sick and vomited throughout the night. It sucked. hahaha! A lot. I really just wanted to shrivel up and go away. At the dedication I was pretty under the weather as well and I spent most of the time bent over, praying that I would not vomit. But regardless,I felt the spirit, and sick or healthy, the temple was dedicated to my God. I cannot wait to go there!
Life is good, and really hard. But who said you cannot be happy and have a hard time?
Eu vos amo
Elder Asa Laws