You know that feeling on the first day of school when you walk into class, sit down, and then... the teacher starts talking... and you look around a bit... and slowly realize that you're meant to be in freshman English, but are actually in the AP biology room?? And then you start sweating because you realize in that moment that you've made a very big mistake. And now you're going to have to get up and leave in front of everyone, because the exit happens to be at the front of the class and at the opposite side of the room? Yeah, that was kind of like us during today's Pday...
You see, there's this famous place called Loreto. Why is it famous? There's this giant Catholic sanctuary that's famous because within the basilica, there is supposedly Jesus's childhood home. Well, why not check it out? We showed up, and it was waaaaaaaaaay crowded! It all was just normal Catholic stuff, and then we entered "Jesus's house"... first of all, let me just say that this was NOT Jesus's house. I highly doubt that the Savior of the World had portraits of himself hanging in his own home. He's much too humble for that lol. But wait, it gets worse. So we enter this little house thing and my first thought is "why is no one moving? Let's look, and then get out. Come on people!" We quickly figured out why. There were all these Catholic priests and nuns chanting and doing strange things with staffs and candles. It was honestly pretty terrifying. Then all of a sudden, all the people around us started chanting in unison with the priests. I'm being 100% serious when I say it was the creepiest thing I've seen in my life. Also, I felt like the main character in a cult movie, when he's like "aw frick, gotta pretend like I know what's going on here" and people kept trying to do peace handshakes with us and then they started doing a weird sacrament thing with chips and we booked it right out of there! Just us two Amish looking girls pushing through chanting Catholics trying to get to the exit, conveniently located at the opposite end of the "house". Keep in mind, all of this went down in a small bedroom-sized space claiming to be the childhood home of Jesus. The apostasy is real, folks, and it's pretty freaky up close and personal😂
It's been quite a week. Branch drama has been going down, which is always an adventure. What do you do when your branch mission leader doesn't like your investigators...? Or when some of the women in the ward verbally attack your less actives the minute they walk into church? Or when they expect you to escort youth to Rimini or do random chores all with like 20 minute's notice? Or when everyone is very much judgmental and socially awkward? Typically, you just do your best and then end up giving a talk, teaching Sunday school, and teaching Relief Society all in the same day. Awesome🙃 oh, how I love these crazies!
Well, my happiness level is really high lately, although my appetite has been pretty low... it has been a rough week for my poor insides. Why, you may ask? Probably because although most Italian food is a m a z i n g, every once in a while people kind of make up their own things and it's bad. Or, it's fish, in which case it is just bad without any effort.
Attack 1: A sweet lady made us lunch after church. There was rice (which is ok) and spinach (which is random but also ok). Then, a meat sauce over the top... containing turkey (semi sketchy but ok) and then a sauce of mayo and tuna (no no not ok double blink abort abort). Why do these people love mayo so much??? We were pretty sick that day, that's for sure.
Attack 2: Hi, remember how I hate fish? 🐟🐡🦑🦐🐙🐠Ok there's this Peruvian guy William who is super cool. He and his son are fairly new converts but had kinda fallen away from the church for about a year, until like a month ago. So William invited us to Manuel's seventeenth birthday party... and we were assuming we'd get to talk to his friends but it turns out they'd only invited us and the Anziani? Nice. Well he starts us out with freaking fish pasta. We're talking clams, shrimp, squid, and unrecognizable things... and of course, my bowl had the least fish, but sweet William felt bad about that and scooped some more in my bowl. Nice. Hurst and I almost died, and the Anziani made fun of us the whole time. BUT WE DID IT! And we thought we'd made it through a bit nauseous but relatively unscathed. WRONG because then William hands us each a giant fish. And that's the story of how I had to eat an entire fish, literally off the bone, peeling off the skin and avoiding the eyes, brains, bones, and teeth. It was watching me eat it 🐟👀 Well, prayer works because I made it! Right in time for more vegetables and fruit and two cakes. I don't think my stomach has ever hated me so much, and we still smell fish everywhere😭
In better news, we had another great lesson with Salina. We were originally planning on teaching the restoration, but about an hour beforehand, we changed it up. Both Sorella Hurst and I felt very strongly like we needed to do a lesson on Jesus Christ and His Atonement. It ended up being exactly the lesson she needed! She ended up asking a lot of questions about the repentance process, and there was just such a special spirit in the room. She asked about when church was, and was like "I'll try to come as often as I can, because I want to feel these feelings as much as possible!" It was just super cool. We were really guided to share different scriptures and experiences, and she seemed really touched by it all.
We have have had two amazing lessons with Jelena this past week! During our first lesson, we kind of just talked about what her concerns were (aka why she broke up with us a couple weeks back). The spirit was so strong and she was so open with us. I felt really at one with my companion as we worked to ask inspired questions and determine what would be best for Jelena. The basic conclusion we all came to was that Jelena still likes her old church and views it as being very similar to our church, so she views both as being on same-ish ground. Because of that, she doesn't want to rush into baptism for either church because she wants to be 100% committed to whichever church she chooses. She really seems to get how important of a covenant baptism is! So for now, we are going to finish the lessons with her and just kind of help her with her questions and doubts. We got a little nervous last lesson because we asked if she had any questions, and she brought up the temple and tithing😬 however, she just wanted to know more about the Rome temple, and with tithing she was like "look, this isn't anything new... it's even in the Bible!” She's so cute lol. She came to church and actively participated in each hour, even taking notes of each scripture or talk cited so she can read them later. She's been really eating up conference talks and the Book of Mormon. She really loves Elder Holland (don't we all?), and is stoked for General Conference in a few weeks!
I think what will end up making the biggest difference for Jelena in the end is the Book of Mormon. She's already read a good portion of it, and absolutely loves it. We asked her at the end of the last lesson if she'd prayed about whether or not it was true. She said she had. And that she really felt that it was a true book of scripture. She kept cross referencing different stories and teachings with those found in the Bible. It's just been ringing even more true than ever to me just how amazing the Book of Mormon is. It accomplishes so many purposes. It testifies of Christ. It clarifies and supports the Bible. Above all, it's a way for us to receive answers and truth. It's something unique to the true church of Jesus Christ. Other Christian churches may have the Bible or some of the same teachings, but only the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has the Book of Mormon.
It's a really good book. 10/10 would recommend.
"We're not normal missionaries. We were basically called to chaperone 13 year olds, fix marriages, and clean churches." -Anziano Jacobsen
"Sometimes we joke that every time you say a prayer, your husband gets hotter!" -Sorella Hurst
"... Well in that case, can I say the closing prayer too?" -Jelena
"You Peruvians just need to stay in Peru! I'm sick of immigrants showing up in this country and stealing our jobs!" -Elena, Russian immigrant
1- Power nap whenever & wherever we can! 2&3-After surviving the fish! 4&5-When you visit ‘Jesus’s house’ and walk in on cult life 6-15 More Pday fun in Loreto!