One thing I love about Paraguay is that their Easter celebration lasts the entire week. Everyone gets time off work and school to spend time with their families and make chipa (traditional Paraguayan cheese bread). We ate a ton of chipa! Everyone invited us to try their chipa. Some chipa is good, and some chipa is not so good. Chipa is always better when it is hot. If it is cold, it gets hard as a rock and is not very fun. I think we tried a total of 10 different chipas over the course of two days.
On Thursday we ate a huge lunch with some members who explained to us that their tradition is to eat a large meal with the family on Thursday to remember the Last Supper.
Friday, everyone remembers the crucifixion by not eating meat. It's a pretty solemn day, a lot of people don't leave their houses. The streets were eerily empty.
Saturday, everyone gets drunk. (That was kind of scary - we were grateful to be on bicycles so we could get home quickly that night).
And Sunday is the glorious day of the Resurrection of our Savior! We had two family home evenings planned Sunday night. We dyed Easter eggs and filled them with candies. We searched for scriptures about the Savior and His Atonement and Resurrection, wrote down the references on slips of paper, and stuck those inside the eggs with the candies. Then we read the scriptures with the families we visited and invited them to share their testimonies of the Savior. There was a powerful spirit in the room as we listened to each of these members share their experiences and feelings about the Atonement.
The best part of Semana Santa (the Holy Week) was a visit we had with our progressing investigator, David, and his mother Irma. David is 9 years old, and Irma is one of the pioneers of Hernandarias - but she has become less active during the past few years. We have been working with them for a few weeks now, and last week we talked with Irma about getting David baptized. She said, "Yes, he needs to get baptized. I was thinking about it, and I think the best thing would be to teach him for a little while longer, get him prepared, and then he can get baptized in May."
We were thrilled! But after we left that night, we talked about it, and we both felt that David could be ready sooner than May. We looked at the calendar, and saw that the earliest David could be baptized was the week of April 11-17. We planned to invite Irma to consider moving the date to April 16, a Saturday.
A few days later, we went back, praying that the Lord would help Irma to know that David needed to be baptized sooner rather than later. To our surprise, before we could say anything, Irma said, "So I was thinking about baptizing David on April 4, which was my father's birthday, but that's a Monday and I don't know if people would be able to come. So I was thinking a Wednesday, because that's when the branch has their weekly activities, so everyone will be there. How about April 6?"
And we, who had been preparing to try to get her to move the date a little earlier, had to explain to her that for David to fulfill the baptismal requirements set by our leaders, the earliet he could be baptized was the following week, on April 13. And she was happy with that.
She shared with us an experience she had with David when she went to school with him. David has autism and he goes to a special school for students with similar needs. His teacher is Catholic and always teaches the students to pray and sing Catholic songs. When Irma visited, the teacher was singing a Catholic song with the students. Then she looked at David and said, "David, why aren't you singing?"
David said, "I'm a Mormon, and I want to sing one of the songs I learn in my church."
The teacher said, "All right, go ahead and sing."
And in a quiet little voice, he began to sing, "I am a child of God, and He has sent me here, has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way, teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday."
Irma told us that the whole class watched in silence as David sang his song. When he finished, the teacher said, "Thank you, David, that was a very nice song." He is such a special little boy and I have learned so much from him!
I know that the Savior lives! He is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of all mankind. This is His church, and I am so grateful for the privilege of representing it.
p.s. attached find pictures of our easter eggs (and the process of making them) as well as our P-day dessert - a "tapioca" (kind of like a crepe but made with mandioca) with strawberries and chocolate inside and ice cream on the side. We were sad when it was gone. :(