The Lord is an amazing artist! As I have just listened to the spirit and acted, with direction from my priesthood leaders, a beautiful picture is being painted…or a wonderful story is unfolding. It feels strange to be writing this story, as I am one of God's children in this story. Oh well, here goes...
So a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday, after our weekly baptisms, (the missionaries rock here!) I was sharing with my Stake President about my “starfish”, Gracinda. I gave him a quick download of "The Starfish Story" Then I shared with him, that she is not a member of the church but that "she is my neighbor; and in America, we take care of our neighbors." After I assessed the needs of my neighbor, (which are many,) I shared with him my vision of bringing relief to this sister and that of her family. He then said to me, “Sister Cassita, would you please teach my people how to serve one another?” I was truly humbled that he would ask me. Without hesitation, I of course said “yes”. When I got home that that evening my mind was spinning with all sorts of ways that I might accomplish this great task; first, came prayer. I have never felt like a natural “leader” and for sure, not one of this magnitude. How would I know what it would take to do this? The very next morning, everything just simply came to my mind! (At first it was too much, too quick.) So I ran some idea's past Sister McKnight and together we came up with a plan for the first phase.
We had 14 sisters in our branch Relief Society sign up to come help. On Saturday, 8 came with their
We met at the church; I thanked them for coming and for being willing to serve; then I offered a prayer and invited the spirit to be with us as we went into this sister's home. Next, we headed over to Gracinda's house. Sister McKnight had made brownies (you have to have treats, right?) and I made some punch, (real hard…just dump the packet mix in water and shake it…). Oh, we had a wonderful time - laughing and crying. I was surprised to see the shock on these sister's faces. Even though they live here on this humble island, even they were shocked to see the extremely poor conditions of this sister. It brought them to tears.
On this phase, we were just sorting through clothes. At the end of Gracinda's bed is a very large TV box that was full of clothes. Most of them were holey and stained, but we just started sorting. There was also a large bag full of clothes and when I lifted it up, cockroaches went squirming! It was awesome!!! Gracinda and I looked at each other and just started laughing; To see the sister’s faces and to watch them jump back. It didn't faze me at all.
I was doing some cleaning under the bed and came upon a machete. I pulled it out from under the bed and the sister just started to laugh
I found out that Gracinda uses it on a pig when they are out of meat. (No, there is no Wilber here from the movie " Charlotte’s Web".)
Life is hard here, but I can see how the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is changing the lives of the people and how our loving Savior is blessing them and this Land with His Light. Oh, how I love being a missionary! My life is forever changed and God is teaching me how to be a leader.
I love Him and my Savoir with all of my heart.I know that God lives and that He loves each and every child on the face of His world… you and me. My prayer for all who will read this is that you will know that you are loved. If you don't know this, please pray to your Heavenly Father, in humble prayer and with fasting. I promise that He will answer your prayers. I don't know in what way, but He will. Then, when you know that you are loved, go and share that love with someone in need. He has asked us to “feed His sheep”, and to “consider the lilies of the field”. He will feed those who trust him. We are all God's children. My testimony is strengthened as I serve my brother's and sister's here in Cape Verde. I am grateful for my Savior and the love he offers me.
My eye's are filled with tears as I write to you this day. I am so very deeply humbled to serve my Savior, Jesus Christ; to be His servant. As I see the great needs of the people here in this part of the Lord's vineyard, I am filled with joy that even the smallest act of kindness or service makes such a huge difference in their lives. .They are such humble people; our brothers and sisters. I fall to my knee's each night in gratitude for this wonderful opportunity to be a missionary here.
I don't know if you have heard of the starfish story so I would like to invite you to listen to it. Then come back and enjoy my starfish story.
I found my starfish - Gracinda is her name. She is my neighbor. (I talked about her in an earlier post)
She has 5 children with another one on the way. Her first 3 children's father left for a better life in Portugal and the father of the younger 2 is George and he is Gracinda's current boyfriend and soon to be husband (if I can share with her and convert her to the importance of being married…) That seems to be a problem here. No one likes to get married. I'm not sure if it's because of the money or what.
Any way…I invited Gracinda to come to our stake conference my second week here and she came! The next week, both Gorge and Gracinda came. Then on Monday, the 19th, Sister McKnight, myself and the Elders had family home evening with her family. What a sweet tender spirit I felt as I watched the children sing with us. Then Elder Olsen asked Edu to offer the opening prayer. At first he was shy but then consented and did a great job. This sweet boy is very special to some of you who will read this, for he tells me all the time about his American friends: Brother and Sister Adams, Sister Palmer, Elder Palmer, Sister Cummings, President Holt - he loves all of you and when he talks of you his eyes light up and there is a spiritual connection for him. I am humbled to follow in your footsteps in making a difference in this boy’s life and that of his family. I love them so much.
So I met this neighbor of mine about 4 or 5 days after I arrived and since that time until today, I have seen much of how this woman cares for her family. Her home needs some major work to make it a safe and habitable place to live. She has no running water, no toilet (yes…it is called a bucket for urine and a bag for the other which is then placed outside for the garbage truck to take away.)
They live with pigs -3 large,3 medium, 7 babies, 4 chickens, and1 rooster, along with a lizard that I saw while I was cleaning, cockroaches and other sorts of bugs. I spent 3 hours on Saturday with Gracinda and her children cleaning, washing clothes and laughing.
They probably think I'm crazy but I wanted to do what they do and learn how to use a wash board. It works!
Then we hung the clothes on the line which is across the street in an empty lot which 3 or 4 neighbors all use. It's great! Then I showed Gracinda how I clean with clorox and a-jax. She was smiling and at one point I was crying as I felt her burden being lifted and her bright smile would light up the room. She is so dear to me. It is true what people say, “I can't save or help everyone, but I can make a difference in one persons life” for I know this to be true as well… that if we just help one, each of us the world would be in a better place. I know…for I was a lost sheep and I was found..
I love you all. I love my children. I am so grateful for the knowledge that I have of the restored gospel and that families can be together forever. I know that the Book of Mormon has been restored for us and I love the peace that it brings as I read the words and am taught the mysteries of God through the gift of the Holy Ghost and prayer. What wonderful gifts! Oh, how I love my Savior, my Redeemer. May our Heavenly Father keep you safe and filled with peace as you put your trust in Him. I love being a missionary and I am grateful to serve my Savior.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen