Warning, the following experience may be a bit descriptive.
The apartment: In my first area, the water was as clear as if it was coming from a fresh mountain spring. And then I came to Santa Cruz and realized my clothes started to smell like a rice pond full of mud and fish. I've always felt the stench on me and at first, I really counted on perfume. I'd always think, "I GOTTA WASH MY CLOTHES BETTER, MAN!" After a few weeks I just got used to it. Mostly cause there's nothing I can do about it. AND THEN. My hair starts smelling funny... Then my skin, etc etc. And then the reality hit me as I walked into the bathroom with my towel to bathe. I happen to look down at the tile in horror: "Sister Cortes.... is this... mud?"
Literally, I've been showering in mud for the last six weeks! And now it makes sense why my clothes have little mud specks in them. And that also explains why I always feel an itchy film on my skin. All I know is, I'm most grateful for the enabling power of the Atonement, but a close second is my gratitude for tiny water filters from the Senior Missionary couples. Problem solved? Maybe, maybe not. We'll see this week if I still smell like the pond next to our investigators house.
Zone Conference: Last one with our beloved President Peterson. What a man. He spoke by the spirit the entire time. His knowledge and understanding just surpasses anyone I've ever met with a lot of gospel knowledge. (Actually, maybe he's right there under my dad and the Grandpa's, but he's up there.) He spoke to us about the Book of Mormon and using it as the tool of our Father in Heaven. He gave tons of great scriptures and a lot of other great insight about this sacred book. And the thing I think I'll remember most from him is his testimony.
He said, "The road to salvation goes through Gethsemane. You have to see Calvary, Gethsemane, and Golgotha to know what burdens the Son of God took upon himself for you and me." Wonderful spirit felt there... Literally could hear a pin drop during his testimony. Sister Peterson then gave a wonderful talk about family. Mostly she talked about families and the how we need to prepare now as missionaries for our families in the future. I loved that because hey, it's never too late to start thinking about families--especially your own. She shared about the importance of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I definitely encourage all to read this proclamation. I learned so many new things and gained a new perspective about our Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness for me.
The Area: Sister Dadivas and I have come up with a vision for our area...Mostly working with members, and part-member families. One special person in a part member family that we've found: Willmar.
His Background: What a small World---We had found his wife one day in Barangay Calios and talked with her. We found out that she has been less-active for about 10 years now. We gave her a few visits but her heart was not ready yet to come back, and she wasn't really interested to listen to us. After one of the lessons, she told us about her husband and after talking it over we realized that he is the guy we always see at DBP bank. We asked her if we could teach him and she gave us the OK. We've taught him for a couple weeks now, every Saturday and Sunday when he is off work. Long story short, Our last lesson with him was the BOMB. Sometimes I think my faith is lacking in the investigator's ability to read the reading assignments---since most times they don't like to read--but this week Willmar read the entire introduction to the Book of Mormon AND 1 Nephi 1-5. Long story short, this man is prepared. He recognized the spirit and has already prayed to know if it's true. I'm picking up some good feelings with this one.
The companionship is going alright... so far so good! We both like to be obedient, teach, find, work with members, etc. haha. She is awesome. This is her third area so she's got some good experience. I'm learning from her. I do miss Sister Baguio a lot but I know that she is definitely supposed to be my companion. I'm learning a lot this week about teaching skills and sacrifice. I wish I could tell you everything but I never have the time! In short, I learned how Jesus Christ's sacrifice is the great and last sacrifice of man. Our sacrifices are not of animals or anything like that, but of our heart. I'm learning to sacrifice what I love, and love what I receive when I do. I really feel the happiness of being a missionary.
One funny thing about being the only American with three Filipinas: they really like rice and hot dogs for breakfast. Not my favorite yet. They talk really fast with each other, and sometimes I can't understand them, but it's really helping my language skills. I can't explain it. I'm just happy. I love teaching the gospel. It's fun to find, work with members, and everything. I love it! It's hard work and I have a lot of hardships but I know if I am faithful and obedient the Lord will be pleased with my service... It's funny how fast time is going by! I'm almost to July, and then August! One year! Wow.... I'm never going to have this time back again. What a great thing I have :)
Summer is winding down, and the rain is COMING! It rained 3 times this week. After Willmar's lesson on Sunday, it started pouring and the flood came. I just walked all the way home in the rain feeling the Love of Christ in my heart and a strong desire to help Willmar and his family become like mine with the gospel. Just a normal day in the life of ME. Happy and satisfied in my trials and hardships along with the sweet successes.
I really love Santa Cruz and teaching. Every day when things get rough, and I start to miss America I feel this satisfaction and happiness that I can't describe. It's the love of Christ and the love I have FOR Christ that keeps me going every day. I'm a happy, sweaty, satisfied missionary!