Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dearest family and friends,

Wishing you all a very happy Valentine´s day! I would like to share a special experience that I had yesterday on the 14th of February.

Our day went really well and we were able to visit several families and teach many people during the day. As the day progressed more and more flowers, balloons and chocolates were seen in the hands of many people headed towards their homes and their loved ones. It was not too suprising that the last couple of appointments of the day were cancelled or were not there when we arrived. It was afterall, an evening to be spent with close family members and loved ones. 

And so after a couple more failed attempts to find people in their homes, we were walking along the street wondering what to do with our last 30 or 40 minutes before we needed to head home for the night. As we passed by an apartment building, I remembered having visited an older couple that lived there several months ago and it was not until that moment that I remembered where they lived. Still unsure of exactly what building, floor, and door it was, I looked over and up, and sure enough, througth the window of the second story room I was able to make out a couple of distinctive figures that assured me that I was looking at the correct apartment. I commented my idea to my companion and we headed up the stairs.

We knocked on the door and heard a quiet voice answer telling us to wait as she looked for the keys and opened the door. After a little while the door finally opened and there was an older lady (in her mid to late 70s). She welcomed us into her small apartment room and I recognized the place from a very brief visit that we had had over 4 months ago. The small one bedroom apartment was stocked full of furniture all piled up into one corner, taking up almost all of the room. Other than those large articles, the rest was neat and tidy. Ramona, the older lady, asked us to sit down and we started to talk a little and see how she was doing. She immediately began to tell us about her husband and how he had been sick. She told us about their several trips to the hospital for various reasons. She told us his birthday was coming up and that he would be turning 89 soon. 

We sat and listened as this tiny, frail, passionate lady told us all about the declining health of her husband and how it had been hard for him to lose some of his functioning. She told us that since he had lost all the strength in his legs and feet he can no longer walk to the restroom and has to use diapers instead that she carefully changes every time it is necessary. She told us how sometimes if she is not paying attention he will try to get up and go to the bathroom, how his feet and ankles cannot hold him and he falls to the ground. Last week, she said, she had to go outside and look frantically for anyone passing by to come and help her pick him up since she is so small and weak herself. (It was very incredibly moving to imagine that scene and the distress and worry of the dear little lady). 

She spoke lovingly of how big and strong her husband had always been and pointed to a photo on the wall of when he was about 25 or 30. She said he had lost a lot of weight and was not very skinny. She laughed as she told us that his hearing is starting to fade and so sometimes she has to talk really loud. She said that the day before as she was talking to him he replied "you´re not my mom, you don´t have to yell at me". 

When we asked what we could do to help she led us into the little bedroom where her husband was seated in his bed eating a little dinner she had prepared. Though now very old and weathered, he said hello and shook our hands. Ramona pointed to a little shelf nailed to the wall and told us how it was in the way and she was worried he would hit his head on it if he fell out of bed. She gave us a pair of plier and we ripped the nails out of the wall and took the shelf down. The both of them were very happy for the little adjustment made in the small room.

We talked for a little more, shared a thought, and sang a sweet hymn that spoke of the power of prayer. Ramona expressed her profound gratitude for our visit, but as we left both my companion and I knew who had been more impacted and blessed from those brief 30 minutes.

Though there were no roses, decorations, or candles, I very much doubt that there was a home in the city where a greater love was expressed on that humble Valentine´s day than in the home of Ramona. 

I hope that you all had a sweet valentine´s day and that we remember the power and profundity of a true love. We were blessed to see someone in a very hard and difficult sitation, worn and tired with the years and experiences of life, left to care for and love someone in an even more difficult situation. I know that God loves us. And I know that God has also provided a way so that the bonds of love that we develop in this life with our spouse and family never end. Marriage and family can last forever.

I love you all,
Elder Brighton 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My dear ones,

Another great week. Super busy as always without a lot of time to breathe, but getting a lot done and seeing really positive things happen. 

One special experience this week was seeing a family we taught and baptized one month ago prepare themselves and enter the temple to do baptisms. It was a goal we had set with them and with the mission president as a sort of pilot program to see if it was possible. They did it! Interviews, family history work, priesthood, everthing came together really well and this last Friday they entered as a couple and were able to take the names of 5 different family members. It was a really special experience for them and we will be presenting the case to the whole mission on Tuesday in the mission council. 

These next four weeks are going to be crazy! Aside from the two conferences we have this week (one of which is with the Guadalajara East mission as well) we now have 12 different visits to make. Manzanillo, 2 in Colima, Cuidad Guzman, 2 in Lomas Guadalajara, 1 here close by, 1 in Independencia Zapopan (where I was for the first year of my mission), Santiago, Tepic, and 2 in Puerto Vallarta. That is a lot of traveling!!!

Besides that, we are working right now with a young man named Fernando. He is in a really critical point in his life where he will either make the decision to keep studying, or drop out and start working. He is 13. His friends and influences are pulling him to the street scene, his parents are worried and pressuring him a lot, making him really confused and more likely to pull away from them and rebel. He is smart and a good kid. But since the financial situation is really difficult it is hard for him to attend school and be able to do all of the assignements they give him since it requires buying materials etc. This week we were able to gain the confidence of his mother as she recongized we are there to help him. We are working to instill hope and patience in her so that she can support her son to continue studying. His father is a less active member and also wants what is best for him. It has been great to teach Fernando and see how he opens up and expresses his concerns and conclusions. We have a lot of hope for him and are going to continue to encourage him to study and to avoid the bad influences all around him.

I also got the tender mercy to be able to give service this week. The kind that I really like that we did a ton of in my first area. We helped to move a bunch of concrete blocks from the ground level up on top of a roof. One by one tossing them. I worked on the bottom, throwing them up. I love that satsifying feeling of getting a hard job done and knowing it would have been near impossible for the single mother to do it herself. My hands got pretty torn up in the process, those concrete bricks are pretty sharp and heavy. Sure is great to be able to aliviate a little bit the hardships and burdens of others.

Well, another week flew by, and before I know it I will be here writing again.

Hope everyone is great and making progress in all that they do.

Los of love,
Elder Brighton

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dearest family and friends,

I wanted to share a few thougths about what I have been learning and experiencing being with Elder Umaña. Even the first time we were together we got along really well and learned to communicate and respect each other. What a huge blessing it is to feel supported at all times. 

As a missionary we are always with our companion. Always. Sometimes that is great, and sometimes it can be hard. You definitely do not suffer from lonliness (in that sense), although sometimes all you want is a little privacy. That is a general comment from my experiences and talking and counseling with lots of other missionaries. But when both companions decide to contribute to the relationship, it can be a great support. Here are a few examples. 

Today after shopping we had to clean the house and make lunch. Elder Umaña took control of the stove and I grabbed the broom and mop. Within an hour the house was spotless and the food was ready to go. We had an incredible lunch of mixed onions, bell pepper, tomato, cheese, a piece of meat, macaroni and cheese, and a blended drink of milk, banana, spinach, and who knows what else he threw in there. It was delicious. And both having eaten, the house being cleaned and shiny, we both had time to write a few letters.

Elder Umaña has learned that he loves music, even though when he arrived he had never sung or played much of anything in his life. Since we have been together he has asked me to teach him how to read notes, how to sing better, how to play the piano. And he has loved it so much that he now plays the guitar and has written a few of his old songs. How cool is that!! And remember that he is a public accountant that spent all his days behind a desk without a whole lot of creativity. 

And he has been teaching me how to use excel more and more effectively. And besides that a lot of other things like formality in the spanish language, opening the mind to other cultures, hard to explain, but lots of really neat things. 

When I make mistakes he does not take advantage of it to make himself feel better or more important. Instead he recognizes that I really was doing my best and that I really did think that was the best thing to do. It is something we both do. And so we are starting to see really positive things happening. The attitude of many Elders is improving, their desire to work better and treat everyone well is improving. 

And with so many new missionaries arriving, Monday we will be opening 3 new zones in the mission. There will now be a total of 12 zones. That means instead of traveling 9 times every six weeks, we will have 12 visits to make. Wow!! That is a lot to fit into so few days! But we will make it work.

My mind is a little jumbled today with so many things going on, but I am doing great, learning lots, being stretched and stretched. Sometimes I think I can feel my brain tissue pushing the inside of my cranium with so many different things running around.

Well there is my attempt at a congruent weekly report. I hope everyone is doing great, looking for ways to serve in real and meanigful ways (the most meaningful service will always require a sacrifice on our part) and loving life!

Lots of love,
Elder Brighton

PS For the first time in long time we got to go and do some real work this week. An only mother is going to be building a little room to stay in above her mother´s house. So we went with her to load up some bricks that someone had donated to her. It felt great to toss those big concrete bricks again. Elder Umaña and I made a two man throwing chain, tossing them one by one from the ground up into the big truck, and then later from the truck and piling them back up in front of the house. The back was a little sore the next day, but man, it sure felt good!