The purpose of this blog is to highlight the beautiful city of Guadalajara; the faithful members, the valiant missionaries who serve here, as well as the people, culture, and food.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Our Sabbath day in Arandas

We drove to Arandas Sunday morning with our assistants, Elder Manriquez and Elder Uribe to meet with the small Arandas group there. It was such a nice drive, but honestly, it was so hazy outside. We could see and almost feel the dirt and smog in the air as it clouded and skewed our view of the beautiful fall fields with their stacked corn stalks, and our seeing the beautiful mountains and the pastures with cattle and lambs grazing. It was a shame it wasn't a clearer, prettier day. rats.

Elder Monroy and Elder Christensen were waiting for us on the corner by the huge and very ornate Cathedral. The little house of prayer was just several street away. The elders walked along the sidewalk as we drove, to show us the way.  We let the assistants out, and drove around the corner and parked on the side of the narrow one way street and walked back.

This Arandas group has just recently rented this upstairs 3rd story room a few months ago as their group really has started growing. The group leader and his wife, brother and sister Salas felt they just couldn't make it work to meet in their home any longer. They just didn’t have the space.

Here is Brother Salas, with his wife Georgina on the right and their three daughters, Maricruz, Karla and Viviana and her boyfriend Ricardo in the back.

 President Clayton approved them renting this room for their Sunday morning meeting. It is a small maybe 12x12 square room. The steep circular stairs leading up to it pass a hair salon and another small business on the other floors. After we arrived, they drew the curtains along one entire wall shut, making the room private. We could though, clearly hear the church bells ringing I believe it was, every 30 minutes. They sounded so beautiful in the background of our meeting.

There were 20 members and investigators packed in tight. They were all there, waiting for us as we walked in. We shook each of their hands, and I felt so humbled, realizing how nervous they were that we were coming and would be meeting with them for church.

The sacrament was prepared and sitting on the built in shelf on the front wall. One round stoneware plate had the bread emblems, and the another round stoneware plate had slightly over sized sacrament cups filled to the exact brim, and lined around the plate, which when we partook of the water, we turned the small cup over. They had not covered the plates with the white cloth yet, as they had waited until President Clayton had arrived to get his approval that everything was appropriately laid out, and then they covered the plates with the cloth.

It is always very sobering and a very solemn opportunity for us to partake of the sacrament in these small, small group settings, and with such earnest members. The reverence, no matter what is going on outside the room, is unparalleled. It is obvious, that these members and even the investigators realize that what they are participating in, is sacred, and there is a reverence and an introspection that is very very evident. Nothing is automatic, nothing is hurried through.

Our hymns are sung mostly a cappella. The conductor will get up and sing the first stanza herself, to remind everyone what song we are singing, and of the melody.  The conductor will then say uno, dos, tres and everyone begins the song together. Sometimes, it takes a stanza or two to get all together, but most, sing right out. What I have learned these many months, is that the spirit comes so strongly, as these members sing with such purpose and such heart. I love it. I absolutely love it.  Truly, I have learned what it means to sing praises to the Lord, and to raise your voices to the Lord in song.

It was fast and testimony meeting, and again, the testimonies were so heartfelt. Most in this group are newly converted. The group leader and his wife are the only Temple endowed members.

One young woman, with curly hair, a jean jacket, and lipstick for the occasion got up and surprised me when she said I've been pondering 1 Nephi 8 and what it means for me to hold on to the rod of iron each and every day. She said, I do not worry about others, I just worry about myself, and every day I seek to keep my baptismal covenants and stay true to what I know I should be doing.  I was so touched with her sincerity.

She then told of an experience that she had with her asthma. Her asthma attacks were continuing to come with greater and greater intensity and they were starting to scare her. She had a particular attack that really frightened her and she could hardly breathe. She knelt down and prayed to Heavenly Father. She didn't dare ask that her asthma be taken away, but she asked that maybe, just maybe, could He just change her enough... so that her attacks wouldn't be so bad, and scare her so much?  I could feel her genuine faith.

This same young woman came up to me after the meeting with her personal progress book looking very used and worn. I do not know where she got that book.  I do know that she completed the entire book all on her own.  Every goal she set and every goal she completed was hers and hers alone. She had papers sticking out of it and some shoved in the back.  She handed me the book telling me she had completed it and did I want to check it.  I had a hard time swallowing to be honest.  I told her that I was very very proud of her, and that this was a big deal that she had completed her personal progress book.  I told her that I would see to it that her young womanhood recognition certificate and necklace would be ordered and presented to her.  (On Monday morning we ordered everything and more that was needed for this sweet young woman.)  

Her 17 year old brother stood up and said, that he had been invited to come to church that morning, by his mom and his sister, and even the Elders who all really wanted him to come, but he said he had not wanted to come. He said he had walked around and around the city that morning, and just felt like he didn't want to come.  But he said, all of a sudden I just felt I should go. So he came. He said, I immediately felt a peaceful feeling when I sat down, and it hasn't left me. Something in me keeps saying I'm glad I came, I'm glad I came.

One older woman stood and said I am a widow and have lived alone with my son for many years. And then she broke down and said, he drinks and drinks and he scares me and I don't know what to do. But when I come here, I feel like I am with family, the family I need so much.

The group leader brother Salas’s nonmember mother came and was the first one to stand after the sacrament. She bore a powerful testimony that what she had felt that day, taking the sacrament and what she had heard from her family discussions was that her Heavenly Father loved her and that her Savior had died for her and that that day, she had felt very strongly that it was all true. That was a miracle coming from this very very Catholic mother.  I saw Elder Monroy and Elder Christensen’s faces as she spoke those words.  Their prayers had been answered.

The meeting was sweet. Our meetings always are, but today, in this big and bustling city, with it's huge and beautifully ornate, and very popular Catholic Cathedral front and center; with its bells tolling regularly to remind the city and it’s people of their Catholic heritage. Today's small gathering, represented the Lord’s faithful. I remembered the scripture in Matthew 18:20, where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. I knew it was true today.

Elder Christensen, Elder Monroy, President Clayton 
and Group Leader, Brother Salas

With Assistants Elder Uribe and Elder Manriquez