Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"I cannot say the smallest part which I feel." (Hilary) and photos

Dear everyone,

Hope all is well! Hope you are loving this October. What is it like in Utah right now? Otavalo is super... well a lot like Utah. The afternoons are hot and sunny, and the nights and mornings are suuuper chilly and rainy. I love it here. An average day in the zone Imbabura would be... Get out of bed at 6:30 and "exercise" (which may include running, yoga, conditioning, or, if we are feeling particularly tired, sitting on the floor and stretching for thirty minutes). By about 7 am we are actually awake, showering, making breakfast, all that. From 8-10 we have our personal and companionship studies and if we don't have to leave, we study the language. Lunch is with a member and generally consists of rice, chicken, vegetables, rice, maybe beans, always soup, rice, juice... and rice. And aside from all that, we are walking around (or riding a bus) to each and every corner and pueblo here in Imbabura, Ecuador, sharing, serving, teaching, contacting, and bringing sheep back to the fold. Like I mentioned, our area is very large and we are currently visiting a lot of people that live far, far from the city. I have never had a strong stomach, so the bus rides can get a little unpleasant. I remember the other day feeling like I was on a 25 minute long Indiana Jones ride after eating chicken feet (you hold it like a popsicle and chew off the ... whatever you would call the stuff that is on the bone/tendon) for lunch. It was super lovely. Good thing I am doing the greatest thing ever or else this might get hard.

Okay, to answer some questions/respond to some statements. Mitch, don't feel bad. Just write. You may not think that what happens is super interesting, but I promise it is. I love reading about your baby girl's grain-of-rice-sized toenails. Promise. (It sounds like sarcasm, but it isn't.) Dad, how was Germany? I hope you are still traveling when I get back so I can join you... :) I look forward to daddy-daughter time when I get back. And thanks for always writing. I know your schedule is super exhausting, but I don't think you know how much it means to me to hear from you. Mom, I got the package from LaVella (tell her thank you so much) and I love it all. I love the clothes and although before I said I don't need more clothes, I had been wanting a sweater and skirt just like the ones you sent. And I have been reading the pumpkin books nightly (homesick?! Of course not...). I love you so much and I am so blessed to have you as my mom. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.

J P is not the other little boy named J that had a baptismal date. J P's mother is a member and his father is not. J and C (that nicknamed me Princess) are children of F. She has five children and is a single mom. F's children are amazing and really, really want to do what is right. F is great, but is holding her children back because she won't change. It is so sad to see. We had to stop visiting them because we were spending a lot of time with them and not getting anywhere. Her kids love her so much and want to be baptized as a family, and won't be baptized without her. We have had a few talks with her where we've said (CASUALLY PARAPHRASING) "Listen, you need to do your part... You realize all your children need you to make this decision. etc etc"  Nothing is working. She has been working with missionaries since October of 2010. She has had previous baptisms that she did not show up to. It is super super sad to talk about or think about or see. Like I said a while ago, I have really been able to get a glimpse of what our Heavenly Father might be feeling. I want so badly for them to accept this and move forward I often find myself crying over them. We have seen F and her kids a few times since we stopped visiting them and it is the hardest thing for me. The other day we found J and his twin sister walking home from school and talked to them for a few minutes. He told me his family is now receiving visits from members of the Catholic church and they're attending there. That was a really tough day. 
It is a good thing we do this work in pairs because I know I wouldn't be able to do this alone - see Ecclesiastes 4

9  aTwo are better than one; because they have a good breward for their labour.
 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Hermana Marca does a great job of lifting me up when I am falling and I try to do that for her in return. I found a quote that I like that explains what has helped when I am really down.

"The Holy Ghost satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart, and fills up every vacuum. When I am filled with that spirit, my soul is satisfied." Eliza R. Snow

Hermanas Marca and Norton and 4 elders attending an Otavalo Festival
I really love the Book of Mormon more than I can explain and my gratitude for it and the prophets who wrote it grows every day. The Book of Mormon and the teachings of modern-day prophets bring me the comfort I desperately need when things get tough in the mission. The other day I found a scripture that I love that helped me put into perspective my trials. 1 Nephi 20: 10 For, behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of aaffliction.
Heavenly Father is perfecting me bit by bit. It is sometimes painful (I mean, that's why they call it a refiner's fire, right?) but I just have to keep remembering that He knows me and He has a purpose in all this and if I am going to be His representative, I need to be better. He is bettering me in these trials.

Okay, today Hermana Marca and I were studying patience and reading in Mosiah and Alma. We stopped as we read Alma 26:1 and 2 

... behold I say unto you, how great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed ... that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?
 And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?

and listed all the blessings that we have seen and felt and received (rather than focusing on what hasn't been working out). It was really a great exercise to focus on all that we have been given here in the mission. I am so eternally grateful for what I have been able to experience. I am so grateful for this opportunity and privilege and the conversion it has brought me. "I cannot say the smallest part which I feel."

Something else I am so grateful for is THE INCREDIBLE BIRTHDAY GIFT that is the daily letters from all the incredible people in my life. I will never forget it. I am working on replying, but it is going to be a process. Hermana Marca says she wants to do the same with her children on their missions... And of course I plan to do it with mine.

Okay, this email has no direction, purpose or organization and I apologize. It feels more like a relaxed conversation with the family. As I am looking back on it, I sound like a huge downer! But just know that I LOVE what I am doing and I am gaining a stronger testimony of Christ's atonement every day.

Oh, forgot to mention, Fernando (their most recent baptism) was recently called as a counselor in the Sunday School presidency and blessed the sacrament yesterday! I felt like a proud mom yesterday in that moment.

I LOVE YOU ALL. Be good. Read your scriptures and pray every day. AND DON'T MISS A SINGLE SUNDAY. Do your part and everything will work out for your good. Blessed be the name of our God.

H. Norton

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