Antonio is like 48 years old, but woke up one morning with the whole left side of his body paralyzed. He was living the high life- lots of friends, his woman, a couple kids, good job, party and drinking every day after work, but with this ´´sickness´´, as he calls it, all that went away. He couldn´t work anymore and his woman and kids abandoned him. So, he came here to our neighborhood to live with his mom. Antonio was a reference from the stake president who talked with him on the street while washing his car. When we first started teaching Antonio, he was a bitter, sad man. No matter what we said, it always came back to how hard his life is now and this ´´sickness´´ he has. It was as if there was a wall in front of his face and everything we said just bounced off it. However, as we´ve been meeting with him everyday, the change in Antonio is HUGE. He smiles now, jokes around a bit, and is even walking (that part has nothing to do with us). He prays everyday for an answer about the church, is keeping all the commandments, but everyday, it´s the same thing- ´´Oi minha princesas. I prayed again, and still nothing. But I know He´ll answer; He´s got a response for me, He just wants me to learn something first´´ YES. That your spiritual health is more important than your physical!! We were pretty discouraged with him at the beginning of the week when one day, he finally said, ´´Ya know what sisters, even if my life were back to normal, I wouldn´t want to be the same person I was..´´ WHAT! Antonio, this is your answer!! He´s still not getting it, but I know that some things are sinking in, and I´m not giving up on him! He needs to know he´s not alone and he can be happy, even if he´s never fully cured physically. We´re getting there.
We´re also teaching the step mom of one of my recent converts. She has a daughter who was born with something... don´t know what it is. But she is 11 years old and is skin and bones. She can´t walk, talk, or do hardly anything, but she recognizes people and loves watching other children play. Her mom, Cyntia, has had such a hard life, trying to pay for all her medical needs and dealing with rude, selfish people, but while other people leave children like Ursula in the dumpster, Cyntia loves her daughter more than anything. As she was telling us some of her stories, I just had to cry. God really loves this little girl and is helping them so much. And now they have the opportunity to hear the gospel. I´m so grateful for the plan of salvation and all the blessings and opportunities we have because of it.
While street contacting this week, we stopped to talk to this one lady sitting on her front pavement with her two daughters. Turns out her first daughter was born blind, but was able to get that fixed through surgery. Then her second daughter was born without a cerebral. I don´t really know what happened, but she must have grown one later on or something because she functions normally now, her head´s just pretty mishapen. Two years ago, though, the mom found out she has a tumor in her brain. They´ve operated twice, leaving her speech handicapped and partially blind, but the tumor´s still there. While talking to her, she told me, ´´I don´t know how much time I have left. I could die tomorrow, but I have faith in Jesus Christ. I have faith. He´s blessed me with my two girls, I know He´ll bless me now.´´ I can´t imagine having so many trials and still having such a strong belief in Christ. However, you can tell she´s struggling. You could hear the emptiness and lack of hope in her voice as she spoke. We haven´t taught her yet, but I really hope that we can give her some measure of comfort as we teach about the hope and peace you can find in the plan of salvation and throught the Atonement of Christ. I know she´s not alone in this, and I know how much the Savior loves her just from feeling a particle of it myself.
I´m so grateful for these amazing examples of faith and strength I´m finding. It´s humbling and terrifying having the responsablitiy of teaching them, but the greatest privelege too because there´s just so much love.
I love you all!