Dearest family and friends,
First off, I LOVE you a lot! It was heaven to talk to you on Christmas and see your cute faces. I forgot to congratulate Rebekah on finishing her college applications (seriously, I remember that being a huge stress, but you did it!), but other than that I think we hit all the major news points. Even more than that, thank you for your personal messages to me that I received in our Christmas multi-zone conference! And the family photo was another wonderful surprise. HOORAY that we get to be together for eternity!
So, here in Nicaragua, Christmas means fireworks, parties, and a big dinner. Also, lots of alcohol, but let´s not focus on that. :) Everything happens on the 24th leading up to midnight instead of in the morning on the 25th. For Nicaraguans, the ¨cena¨ is a more common form of celebration than presents. We had two Christmas dinners in a row, first with Santiago and Elizabeth, then with Hermana Gladys. Wow, we were stuffed to bursting! Traditional Christmas food is pollo relleno (you can look it up, I´m not sure everything that it includes). It was a good day, although we didn´t work very effectively.
On the 25th, I Skyped the fam! Thanks for being yourselves and being such great people.
The 26th was our multi-zone conference. We listened to inspired messages by President and Sister Russell, then had a three-course meal in the cultural hall. After that, we changed into ¨ropa P-day¨ and played volleyball and broom hockey, which was ridiculously intense and super fun. Then we changed back to our missionary clothes and had a gift exchange, watched a slideshow of pictures of every missionary´s family, and received gifts from the mission. You should have seen how excited that room of missionaries got when President Russell announced that each missionary would get his or her own jar of peanut butter and jelly! Haha, we know how to party in Nicaragua Managua Sur! But in addition to our sandwich fixings, we also received these cool carved wooden pencil / missionary name tag holders, 72-hour kits, and ziploc bags to protect our scriptures. The gifts really were perfectly suited to our needs and very thoughtful, which I loved! The other highlight of the multi-zone was seeing and talking to Hermana Richins again after over three months.
We got home from the multi-zone at 7:00 PM, and that´s when things get crazy. We went to see if Elieth and Juan Carlos were home, since Elieth was our possibility for baptism on Saturday. However, we had kind of given up on the chance that she would be baptized this week because her mom told us on Thursday that she wasn´t home and that she and Juan had gotten drunk to celebrate the 24th. Wait, I already summarized this in my letter to President Russell, so let me just copy and paste to save time:
¨Elieth and Juan Carlos were super indecisive about the idea of marriage. They wouldn´t give us a firm answer until Tuesday that they wanted to get married instead of separated. To our deep disappointment, Juan Carlos drank guaro all last weekend after staying sober for a month, so we knew he would have to wait to be baptized. Then, we thought our baptismal candidate Elieth had fallen through on Thursday morning when we went to review the interview questions and her mother told us that she and her husband had celebrated the 24th by getting drunk (like the rest of Managua, it seems). However, on Friday night after the Multi-zona when we went to search for them one last time, we found out that Elieth was still clean with respect to the Word of Wisdom. One quick interview later, and we were left with a little under 20 hours to plan a wedding and a baptism! I was a world-class procrastinator before my mission, but with all the stress of these last-minute baptisms, I think I might return home forever cured of my bad habit.¨ :)
So, to spare you the stressful details of contracting a lawyer at 9:00 AM for a 5:00 PM wedding and buying a cake and decorations and searching for witnesses and finding baptismal clothes and reminding our investigators that they needed to go to church in the morning... Saturday happened, and Elieth and Juan Carlos got married! How fitting that my first wedding in the mission should happen on Mom and Dad´s wedding anniversary?! Then Elieth got baptized. Ah, they were so happy.
Anyway, that was my week! I hope yours was wonderful as well!
1) Christmas dinner number 1
2) Christmas dinner number 2 (note the looks of apprehension)