Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Best of Small Town-Church

I cannot leave Small Town with out a post about what church has been like for me. One thing I love so much about my church is that everyone has the opportunity to participate in one way or another; sometimes as a teacher, sometimes in a leadership position, sometimes working in the nursery with the little kids. There are constant opportunities for growth and learning.

Here in Small Town I have had the chance to work with the women's organization called the Relief Society. When I am not chasing my kids around, visiting the big shrimp or monkeys, or blogging :), I am usually working on church stuff. It often feels like a part-time job, but in a good way. There have been times when I have been so bored or lonely or both that it was the only thing I had other than my family.

The Mexican women have been so kind to me despite the fact that I am a "gringa" and don't speak their language perfectly. They have let me in to their homes and have shared their heartbreaks and triumphs with me. Last week they had a farewell for me; they sat around in a circle and each one took a turn to tell me what they appreciated about me, something they learned from me, or some memory of something we had done as a group. It was very moving for me as I don't think we are very open like that in the States.

So, I wanted to share some photos of some of the things we have done the last two years.

Our church emphasizes food storage and emergency preparation; not in a "doomsday" kind of way but more of a "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear" way. After a couple of unique experiences in Venezuela, I am a huge fan of these concepts, and so when I saw they hadn't caught on too much down here, I bought a Mylar pouch sealer machine from the States, learned how to use it, and then taught them how to dry pack food:

April 10, 2005 Bagging

We did this in my home every month. Some months only one or two women would show up, but at least it was a start.

We had cooking classes:

cooking class

We made hygiene kits for victims of Hurricane Stan:

hygine kits

One of the most memorable activities was last Christmas. We collected new underwear, socks, and sandals for 96 kids living at a local orphanage. This was so much work, but well worth it.

Here we are at my house before we delivered the gifts:

Casa Hogar

delivering the gifts:

At casa hogar

The kids we gave the gifts to:

kids at Casa Hogar

Each one came up and gave a kiss to the woman who had their gift; it was so sweet:

kids getting gifts

And then there were activities that aren't photo-worthy, but much more worthy in substance. One woman I worked with is a psychologist and she gave numerous classes to try to raise the self-esteem of the woman. Our purpose in offering such classes were, first, to try to break the cycle of poverty that is so prevalent here; the number of young teenage girls that got pregnant in the last two years was very disturbing. And second, so that wives won't find it acceptable when their husbands abuse them. Luckily this dear friend of mine will be staying in Small Town and continue working on issues like these.

It has been a lot of hard work last 2 years and I feel tired, but happy. It has strengthened my belief that you will love those whom you serve; you can't help but love them. Even though I am ready to leave Small Town, it is hard to leave so many people that care about me and my family.
(On the other hand, my kids can't wait to go to an English-speaking ward in Big City Mexico. They have never gone to Primary in their own language other than on vacation!)


Millie said...

It's wonderful that you and your kids have had such enriching experiences. You've brought to mind so many things I never would have thought of in "White Bread Land" - you and NCS have provided a glimpse of what it's like to live somewhere other than the U.S. I appreciate it more than ever.

Sounds like you've done an excellent job with your calling. I wish you were in my ward. :)

Anonymous said...

While you never served a "full-time mission" you life has been one huge missionary experience since you joined the church. You amaze me. Everyone in small town is lucky to have known you. I feel the same way.

Super Happy Girl said...

WOW Gabriela, what a wonderful post.
It brought tears to my eyes :')
Happy tears
What amazing adventures you have with your family, we need more people like you in the world (and I’m not saying that just because you are my BOFF).

An English-speaking ward, that's so awesome!

Brooke said...

I love sisterhood at church. I work in the Primary right now and have enjoyed my friendship with the other ladies in the presidency. I'm about to be released, though, and I'm excited to be able to attend the Sunday Relief Society lesson.

Kathryn Thompson said...

I love this post. I really needed this today, the reminder of service and the blessing it is to everyone involved. I am glad you're moving but I know all about missing the place you leave.

ShelahBooksIt said...

Sounds so cool. I have loved my small, tight-knit wards in the "mission field" but also have appreciated the big established ward.

Good luck with the move!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing those memories. They'll live forever in the lives of you and Guapo and most importantly, in the lives of your kids (in spite of going to Primary in Spanish). Congrats for reaching the last week in Small Town with no straight jacket in sight. That in itself is an achievement!!

Code Yellow Mom said...

OK, I started bawling as I read this post and looked at pictures. I love this church.

And how amazing for you to be a part of teaching and learning in so many different countries of the world, and it's true wherever you go!

Can I ask what BOFF stands for?

Super Happy Girl said...

BOFF=Best On-line Friend Forever

Group hug everybody!
The Church rocks

Gabriela said...

Thanks for covering for me BOFF.

Thanks for all the praise, but you should all know that sometimes church made me grouchy as well. Lots of frustration at times, but still, all worth it.


the lizness said...

BOFF indeed! *do you know your atom feed isn't working? my bloglines can't find your website anymore.

Grammy said...

You are so right! It is through our service that we grow and learn to love. You do a wonderful job - above and beyond what is neccessary. No wonder your sisters love you. I came to appreciate this about you so much when we worked together in YW in Caracus. It's part of how I came to love you so much. Working together was a great beginning.

utmommy said...

Sounds like you've done an amazing job with your calling. I'm sure the people of that ward will miss you immensely. You are a great example of what hard work and service can do!

Lana said...

Sounds like you guys had an awesome ward, and like you did a lot of good while you were there. I'm sure your next one will be great as well, that's one of the neat things about the gospel it true everywhere you go~and you can find those trying to live it and make friends with them anywhere too.

Anonymous said...

What wonderful experiences you have had while serving in Relief Society. It is so fun to belong to an organization that is constantly doing good deeds.

Erickson Family said...

Some of my favorite wards were in Hispanic countries both on my mission and when we lived in Mexico. The people are so warm and accepting and it makes you part of an instant family.

I also totally bonded with my last ward where there was so much work to do. With 800 on the rolls and less than 200 attending, there was plenty for the active to do. It was exhausting at times, but now that we are gone, I miss it. I'm grateful for my strong spiritual ward, but I have to admit, I don't feel as close to people here. You're so right -- you grow to love the ones you serve.