Nasty pictures from Nathan! I hope he feels better soon. Sending prayers up there from down here.
Well, this week was definitely one of the most chaotic I've had in my mission thus far.
Tuesday I'll talk about in a separate email (Mom and Dad only), but Wednesday was pretty crazy. Lawrence and I were eating lunch at Hermana O____'s house when this man and woman come stumbling around the corner trading punches and scratching each other. The man looks like he's trying to get away from the woman, while the woman keeps trying to punch the man in the face. Both of them are scratched up a bit and bleeding. The dude manages to get away from the woman and starts running away from her across the yard. She picks up a machete lying on the front porch and comes after him.
Just then, Hermana O_____'s mother comes storming out of the house and confronts the woman. Amid frantic shouts (and cusses I think) of Miskito, the mother takes the machete from the woman's hands and leads her inside. Turns out, she's one of O_____'s younger sisters and she had just gotten into a fight with her husband. Her husband, who was drunk at this point, had cut her arm open with a razor blade some minutes before, but appeared to regret doing so. As the wife was taken inside, the husband sat down on the lawn and cried. All this happened in less than two minutes.
While the woman later went to the hospital to patch up her arm, the husband jumped a bus headed for Rosita (a semi-distant community), leaving behind his wife and son. We haven't heard from him since.
After the little fistfight was over, Lawrence leans over to me and remarks, "that's how marriages end."
And I have to agree. There's a lot of families here (or pseudo-families) that are broken up (be it quickly or slowly) due to alcohol. And also due to the lack of strong family-oriented Christian teachings.
Anyway, Saturday through Sunday we had District Conference. Kinda like Stake Conference back home, except the Mission President is in charge of all the branches and districts in the mission over which he presides. Wards and stakes are under the jurisdiction of bishops and stake presidents, respectively.
So, we find out on Sunday morning an hour before conference that both buses that we'd chartered (contracted?) to pick up investigators had suddenly and without our notification had been taken by two other groups of missionaries in Puerto. After searching around somewhat frantically, we quickly (and miraculously) located another bus, which happened to be owned by the same company that we'd chartered the other two from. They amazingly agreed to let us use the bus to take members and investigators to church. The willingness to lend the bus was also due to the fact that our branch president had rented out a third bus to be used by us, but which had mysteriously dropped off the face of the earth earlier that morning.
So, we end up taking this (fourth) bus on our normal route to pick up people for church. All goes well until about halfway through our route, when the bus chokes, shudders, and dies right there on the side of the road. We open up the hood, and discover that one of the drive belts has frayed and snapped.
By the way, it's a miracle these buses run at all. They're held together by so much stuff that's not actually auto parts it's crazy.
Anyway, the bus driver removes the broken belt and tries manually jump starting the engine. It turns over a few times, dies, then starts again, not without some fervent, heartfelt prayers from the 4 missionaries on board (Lawrence, Maughan, Mariño, and I).
I have no idea how the engine kept working without a drive belt. I'm not a mechanic by any standard, but I'm pretty sure a drive belt is absolutely necessary for an engine to run. And yet, before our very eyes, the engine groaned to life once more. I am absolutely convinced that the hand of God was working with us, helping us transport our 80-or-so passengers to church.
After jumping the engine, the driver sprints back to the wheel and shouts for everybody to get back on. As some curious onlookers had departed the bus to observe the engine restart, we had to herd everyone onto the bus once more. Luckily, we had picked up all the passengers on our route, and the last stop was the church building...on the other side of town.
The bus lurches forward about 400 yards or so, and then the rear passenger-side brake mechanism catches fire. Or maybe it was part of the tire or axel. I wasn't really sure. Anyway, all this black, nasty smoke starts billowing out of the rear passenger wheelwell. We take one look outside the bus at the smoke and tell the driver to head straight for the church. We actually had a few passengers start to panic as the bus continued smoking.
Finally, FINALLY we made it to the chapel, about 30 minutes late. As soon as we stop, everybody starts pouring out of the bus through the front door, back door, and a few of the windows. There were already two other buses parked out front, so their drivers came over with a bucket of water to see what was going on. They tossed the whole 5-gallon bucketful of water into the wheelwell, but it continued smoking. I herded all the members and investigators inside just as Hermana Collado (wife of the mission president) got up to speak.
BUT! It wasn't over yet! Lawrence had been feeling under the weather all week, and especially today, so when we entered the chapel, he headed straight for the bathroom with diarrhea and vomiting. Not fun.
We ended up missing the entirety of Sunday conference as Lawrence was sick in the bathroom.
And then we took everybody home on the same creaky old bus.
Lawrence is feeling better now, but he has to get checked for intestinal parasites tomorrow.
All in all, one chaotic week.
As for myself, I'm a bit tired and pretty discouraged at the moment. Presidente Collado just introduced a new plan for finding new investigators to us last night, so that could bring some good results here. Oh! That reminds me: I have a bit of homework for each of you (Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree) to do this week.
I need you to write down the names of at least 10 families or friends that you guys know, along with their addresses. These 10 need to be at least somewhat open to the idea of a Restored Gospel. They can also be families where some are members and some aren't, people recently married, people who recently lost a loved one, or people who had a child recently.
Then, give the lists of names/addresses to the local missionaries. We're applying the same technique down here and we've been promise increased success in conversions by the general authorities. Could you give it a try?
The idea is that every member in the church is a missionary, not just those serving full-time. We can all work together to bring this message to the world.
Best wishes to Thomas Fife as he heads out next week. Can you get me his missionary email? And Dillon and Brennan Rogers' as well?
I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree.