Hopefully Halloween treated you all well and you are all recovering just fine. We actually had an activity as a branch to celebrate Halloween on Saturday. It was really fun. We started out with a spiritual thought and then did skits and watched the little kids play games. It was awesome because tons of the members, even though the branch is super tiny, brought some friends and family who are not members of the church so we got to mark them down as references and get to visit them a little later on in the week! We are super pumped about that.
I am convinced that NOBODY looked as good as the Noll's. Special shout out to my Mommy and the costumes she always throws down! My little brother, Al, looked like a champ and never in my life have I seen such a good lookin´ trio so close to breathing their last breath! ;)
So as you all can guess...this week was another great one! Ecuador never fails me :) On Tuesday I got to go out to a tiny little town called Naranjito and work there for the day. We had a super neat experience! There is a Recent Convert family and the sister of the recent convert wants so badly to be baptized but she and her boyfriend are not married and the boyfriend wants NOTHING to do with baptism...nor the Missionaries for that matter. He has denied them, denied them, and denied them...but this time was different! We headed over there with determination and with a firm belief that the Lord was going to soften his heart...and He did. He accepted the lessons for the first time! It is amazing what the Gospel does to a person...by the end of the lesson he was a different person with different goals and a different look on his life and where he wanted to go. He decided for himself that he wants to be married to his girlfriend so that they can both be baptized. So touching. The Lord truly has a time for everyone...just a matter of waiting until he puts His perfect plans into play.
Naranjito even has a Gym...so Elder W, an Elder from Chicago, and I got up a little earlier to get a pump in. Man did that pump rip me apart. It has almost been a week and I still can barely peel my bananas. Nevertheless, a chest and tri´s work out made this week a great one for sure! ;)
On the way back from Naranjito we had to take various buses...the last bus only passes every 45 minutes and we got off from the second to last bus JUST as the last one was heading off. We went running chasing that sucker down! I felt like Lloyed Christmas chasing after the Bikini Tour Bus to tell them that ´´the town is that way´´ but the result was different. The bus driver must have been in a hurry because there was no stopping him.
There were two experiences this week that absolutely shattered me...yet I learned so much. I won't go into detail but we had two lessons with two different people this week that, for various reasons, felt like they could not pray to God. They felt like they needed time. That they needed to be better. They REFUSED to pray. I was so distraught. I thought of my own earthly parents. How much I love them. How much I miss them. How much I need there instruction. And where I would be without them on Monday's...even if it is just a short moment through words. Then I thought of my Heavenly Father...how much I need Him. How much I long for Him. How much I need His protection and instruction and where I would be without my daily conversations with Him. I know that the power of prayer is real. I know that it is the answer to all doubt, sorrow, and or fear. The sadness I felt as this man and, later on in the week, this woman, expressed their ´´unworthiness´´ and ´´lack of desire´´ to pray only strengthened my gratitude for prayer and all that is gives us and offers us as we do so.
One day last week we were teaching a lesson a cat entered the front door and beneath my seat with a MASSIVE bird hanging from its mouth. The bird was flocking around and dying...feathers going everywhere, blood spurting around, etc. The old man we were teaching said, ´´Ahhh...Not again!´´ (As if this happens frequently?) Haha! So that was a little strange...but I managed to grab a feather from the poor bird to save it as souvenir. The man yelled at the cat and him and the wounded bird scurried off out the door...oh the things that occur in a lifetime.
We were blessed with a great fast Sunday yesterday.
A man thought we were insane when we told him that we don´t receive money for our service...that our pay is the happiness of others. That caused for quite the reaction.
We are coming up on the rainy season...so that will be sweet.
We have a family night with a less active family and I am going to ATTEMPT to make a ´´TRACY NOLL-WORLDS FAMOUS-BANANA BREAD´´ batch. We will see how it goes!
It is a Holiday here today and tomorrow so basically nobody is working. The streets are super dead. It was a miracle that we found a cyber! It is ´´Day of the Dead´´ and everyone is visiting the cemetery and drinking something called ´´Colada Morada´´...it is purple goop with just about every fruit you can possibly think of...it is super good! They eat it with Gingerbread men.
I think that is all that is new...
A lot comes to my mind every Monday as I begin to write these spiritual messages. I pray to the Lord each week that He will lead and guide me through His Holy Spirit to satisfy the needs of you all. Something tells me to touch a bit on becoming something that not all of desire to become.
As the Lord reveals unto Joseph divine directions to build a temple He says, ´´...that I may bring to pass my strange act...´´. The Lord´s acts are strange. His acts are found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So to all of you who perhaps are not members of the Church...that is why the Mormons are so ´´strange´´...it is because we do what the Lord tells us to...and His acts are strange. For those who have been baptized into the Church in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we promise to keep the commandments...we promise to follow these ´´strange acts´´...therefore making us...strange. Christ´s work is strange...and if we too are not strange...something is very wrong. The Lord then explains that this ´´strange act´´ is so that He can ´´pour out His spirit upon all flesh´´. I promise that as we become strange we will have His spirit to be with us at all times, in all things, and in all places. The Lord again calls His acts and works strange in section 101:95, ´´That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work,...´´.
And now comes the why...
Why does the Lord want me to look strange? Why do I have to be different? Why would I EVER want to be strange?
´´...that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God.´´
I am here to testify that to choose the right is peculiar. Obedience is odd. To set an example is weird. The Lord´s ways are NOT normal ways. On the contrary...to be ´´cool´´ is wicked. To ´´fit in´´ is a principle that only Satan teaches. This strange work is to separate those who are righteous and those who are wicked.
Do all in your power (YOUTH) to look strange.
Are you the ´´strange´´ student who arrives to seminary on time and participates?
Are you the one who they call ´´weird´´ because you went to mutual over the party or basketball game?
Are you the one they call peculiar because your shirts cover your shoulders and your shorts go to your knees?
Are you the ´´strange´´ one who says ´´I can´t...it´s family night´´?
The questions could go on forever that could classify you as ´´strange´´ or not. And I devote my entire soul to those of you who answered ´´yes´´ to those questions in gratitude. You are the ´´light of the world´´. You are ´´among the noble and great ones´´. It is a matter of discerning between the righteous and the wicked. It is having the Holy Spirit poured out upon you or living without it. It is a matter of being like the Savior or submitting yourself to the eyes of men. It is a matter of salvation and eternal happiness or misery.
STRIVE to be STRANGE. There is NOTHING normal about the Lord´s Gospel. The Kingdom of God is NOT normal and only will the strange obtain it. Only the strange will be exalted.
Love you all. I wish you all the best of luck in your journey to become strange in the Lord. I promise the blessings of Heaven over your head as you all do so.