Hola y Feliz Navidad!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I had a great Christmas too! Thanks so much to the YSA Branch for sending such a thoughtful package and letters! Oh it just made my day! You guys are the best!! Thanks for remembering me and for all your support! I also LOVED talking to my family last night! Agh so awesome! K here's what happened this week in Mazatenango
1. Christmas traditions here in Guatemala! Christmas was pretty different here. Here are a few of the traditions:
-- Tamales and ponche -- Everyone eats tamales on Christmas, similar to Mexican tradition, but the tamales here are very different. They are a lot wetter, and they have things like chicken (with the bone), raisins, date nuts, olives, and other random things in them. They're not my favorite, but I liked them alright. Everyone also makes ponche, or "punch", which is very similar to cider, its a hot drink made with cooked fruits like pineapple, apple, coconut, etc etc. It yummy!
-- Fireworks! -- Everyone waits up until midnight on Christmas eve, and then at midnight everyone in the neighborhood shoots off fireworks, and I don't just mean little ones. There were lots of big regular-sized fireworks. It was fun because they were going off in all directions, really loud, colorful, and smoky. When I told people that in America we don't wait up til midnight and use fireworks, they all were shocked and thought that American Christmases must be really lame ha-ha.
--Pine needles -- I'm not really sure why, but part of the Christmas tradition is to spread pine needles all over the floor of their houses. Messy, right? That's something that my family tries to avoid ha-ha.
-- New clothes -- Receiving and wearing new clothes on Christmas eve is a really big deal here. There aren't many presents for anyone because everyone is poor, but just about everyone had beautiful new clothes on Christmas eve and then Sunday morning for church. Earlier in the week we even went with Isabel, our new convert, and her granddaughters, to buy them new clothes. Luckily my comp is from here and understands the traditions, because I would have had no idea that getting new clothes is a big deal.
On Christmas eve, since we live with a family, we were able to stay up late and celebrate with them. It was really fun, it really seemed like a time of sharing and spending time together. What a nice blessing it was to spend Christmas with a family, even if it wasn't with my own.
We also had the ward party earlier in the week, where someone donated 4 pigs to be slaughtered and cooked up (sorry mom he-he). There were clowns to host a little show for the kids, good food, and some of our investigators and recent converts were able to attend. Awesome!
2. Baptism of Mario!! On Sunday a guy named Mario was baptized. Hes the boyfriend of a girl in the ward, Hermana Stevens and I taught him a few months ago but he didn't feel ready to be baptized. My comp now, Hermana Baca, had never even met him, but he was baptized and it was a beautiful baptism. He really seemed ready to make covenants with the Lord, and he wasn't just getting baptized for his girlfriend.
3. Familia Hernandez: These guys are hopefully getting baptized tomorrow!! A family! Hooray! The wife is still a little indecisive about it but were visiting her tonight and really hoping and praying that she can feel good about it like she did before. Her husband is totally awesome. It has been such a pleasure to watch his change through reading the Book of Mormon and praying, just as simple as that. Wow. So I'm really really excited and anxious about tomorrow. I know that we as missionaries have done all we can do, and now its in the hands of the Lord and the family.
So that's what I did this week! It was a great week and I'm really glad to be here. On Sunday a girl in the ward received her mission call and read it out loud (to Chile), and me and my comp were both crying because we were remembering when we received our calls, the special feelings that we had and still have. I am so so grateful to be on a mission, its such a special blessing to be a missionary. These words don't describe very well my feelings, but I am so grateful. I love the Gospel. I know that it is true and that we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today. How amazing is that!? I love my Savior Jesus Christ and am grateful for His sacrifice for me so that I could have the opportunity to come down to earth, experience and learn so many things. What a wonderful plan our Heavenly Father has for us. I love the Gospel and I love being a missionary! Have a great week and break from school! Thanks for your prayers and support!
Love, Hermana Gilland