Apart from the heat, though, this place is so cool. My first area is Coconut Creek, and I'll be here for at least 12 weeks. There are palm trees everywhere, and it decides to torrential downpour a few times everyday, then just stops and the ground is dry again three minutes later. It's such a cool place!
My companion's name is Elder Van Wagenen. He's from South Jordan, and he's been out for 10-ish months. He's really good at teaching lessons and making the investigators feel loved. At our apartment, he reminds me a lot of Elder Mullins (singing habits and all), which can be fun at times, but can also be lethal, like the gigantic poisonous spiders that like to hang from trees and look creepy and evil.
The areas we go to teach in are super ghetto. Most of them are little apartments with one or two rooms. Some of them are even as bad as India, with either barely anything in their homes, or a bunch of random things that they collect over time. They're always super dirty though. It's sad, but they're very humble people and love it when we come by. I am yet to try some of their infamous food though.
There are a few Haitians that are really well off, though. Well, actually, I've only met two families, but still! We went and ate with one of the families last night, and their really funny. Gaerma, the mum, is very country-club-y, if that makes any sense. They're a really cool family. They have a 16 year old son named Cliff, but he was born in Luxembourg after his mum moved from Haiti, so he doesn't speak much Creole. I mainly talk to him, because I don't speak much Creole either:) It is really hard talking to Creole people here. They always talk so fast and then just stare at me, so it usually takes a couple of seconds before I realize that they asked me a question. Then I wait for Elder Van Wagenen to tell me what they asked in English.
Anyway, back to Cliff. So he's been a member his whole life, and his mum used to be a member but got ex-communicated for being in an adulterous relationship. Then she divorced and moved to Florida with Cliff and her boyfriend, Guillermo. Those two are about to get married, and we thought that that was why they weren't members yet, because they were living together but weren't married. We found out last night though that Gaerma still has some emotional blocks about the church because they ex-communicated her and not her husband without listening to her side of the story. It's all a very messy business if you ask me! But she had her testimony re-spark a few months ago and has been taking lessons from the missionaries since with Guillermo, who is new to the church. We want them both to be baptized so badly, but I don't know when it'll happen. I know she has faith. She even asked us for a priesthood blessing last night because her leg was hurting her really badly. (blessings are hard to give in Creole, in case you were wondering). Cliff's really strong in the church though. He even spent five hours with us one day, helping us teach.
Oh, almost forgot. So one cool thing we do out here instead of proselyting is called harvesting. It's where we go up to anybody we see or knock on doors, and we ask if we can leave blessings in their homes. After the blessings, we ask them right there if they will prepare for baptism. When I first heard that that is what we would be doing, I was super confused. What the heck, children. People don't just commit to baptism after five minutes. But we've been doing it for an hour every day, and it really does work. It's so crazy!!! That's actually how we've gotten most of our investigators. There are a lot of Christian people here who accept the blessing, but don't commit to anything because they say they don't need baptism again. That's our main problem out here. But we can still commit some people who have already been baptized to be baptized into our church, which is awesome!
My coolest experience here so far has probably been with Tatyana. She's a 14 year old Haitian girl, but she was raised here in Florida so she speaks English. , she committed to be baptized since she'd already gone to church once, so we came back and taught her everything else she needed to know that hadn't already been taught. She was so receptive and eager, and it's just so awesome that there are people like her who are just so ready. She wasn't baptized because her mum told us she wanted us to stop meeting with her, and we need parental permission for baptism. It was not a fun time. But we ran into her evening and she explained that she had talked to her mum, and her mum was totally okay with it now, so we're hoping that Tatyana will be baptized . Her mum and step-dad have had one lesson before I was here, and they both seemed to like it, but haven't been home for another one since. We just teach Tatyana outside because we're not allowed to go into houses without parental permission either. It's pretty hard trying to teach when random little naked Haitian children we don't know try to stab us with plastic spoons, car horns go off every two seconds, and drunk men upstairs yell out random things in Haitian, but it seemed to work. The spirit is strong!!
That's about my week, to be honest. Just lots of harvesting, teaching people, and miracles. I love this work so much. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, my legs always hurt (we drive to central places and then usually walk around for an hour or two to find people), and I'm always just exhausted by the end of the day, but it's a good exhausted because it helps me know that I'm doing all I can!
Well, I love you all so much. Please keep emailing or writing letters. I probably won't respond to too many letters simply because it takes a long time, but I'll definitely appreciate them A LOT! And I'll email you back even if I don't write. I love you guys! Don't forget me:)
Avèk anpil lanmou, Eldè Skidmore