extended family

Just got back from a visit with my… quarta abuela (for lack of a better way to put it). We’re not really family at all, but she’s adopted me as another son or grandson. She’s visiting her daughter and grandchildren (she flies up every few months if she can), and insisted that I come by the house before she flies back home on Saturday.

I know the family pretty well. When I visit I tend to get the kids all wound up to the point that they get in trouble for not calming down and going to bed at a decent time. (They’re young kids and very excitable. I actually wish we could play more without getting in trouble.) I’ve known Efraín, the dad, pretty well for a while now, supporting each other in our church responsibilities. He used to work closely with the missionaries, now he’s a counselor in the branch presidency. I’m president of our priesthood quorum, so we still see each other a decent bit. Sharon, Efraín’s wife leads the Relief Society now, so we’ve gotten to know one another by working together more recently (and last summer she got in this habit of introducing me to every single woman she could find, which was funny, if a bit awkward).

Sharon’s mom (the aforementioned “quarta abuela”) is just one of those great older latin women who loves everybody and wants to know why you don’t come by the house more often. (And if you’re single, like some of us, she talks about how she’s gonna find you a good husband or wife.)

To that end (the coming by the house one), she worked on me a good bit tonight to get me to go visit she and her husband back home in Costa Rica. She’s told me more times than I can count how great it is there and how much I’ll love it. (Judging by her description, the only thing I can think of that might be better is an afternoon at the beach just west of Golden Gate Park, but that’s cuz I get my nature and city fixes all at once, and there’s a great restaurant just a block or two away.) So I need to make some time to go in the next year or two, balancing that with trips to visit relatives… and Heather’s gonna kill me if I don’t make it back to SF one of these days (or at least that’s my current excuse).

Unfortunately, I lost the thread I was tracing here. I’m sure it had something to do with the great part of latin culture that leads everyone to invite people over all the time. Certainly makes me feel appreciated. (Especially those “hey… why haven’t you come over to our house in a while? You come to our house tonight!” moments.)

I still don’t think I’ve got across the flavor of things. There’s just something cool about people telling you how great their country is and how much they think you should visit. (And Costa Ricans have a special talent for it.) It’s even better when you can tell that they’re inviting you because they care about you and want to bring you into their lives that way. (Better still when you feel that same caring for them, and understand what they’re really saying when they invite you over.)

Explaining some of the church culture and jargon

Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) don’t have a paid clergy. Within the church, men and women serve voluntarily, men serving in various offices of the priesthood (all worthy men are priests of one kind or another), women serving in the Relief Society, a women’s service organization. Both organizations are essential to the service work that we do within our congregations and in our communities.

Congregations are called wards or branches, large congregations are generally called wards, smaller ones branches. A branch is led by a branch presidency, consisting of three brothers who hold the primary responsibility of serving the needs of the branch, specifically, leading the Sunday meetings, coordinating with the priesthood and Relief Society to serve the members of the ward, supporting the missionary effort, and attending to the spiritual and ecclesiastical needs of the branch’s members.

The priesthood and Relief Society serve the members of a congregation by organizing visits to each family’s home at least once a month, to see how everyone’s doing, offer help and support with any difficulties the family may be experiencing, encourage family spirituality, and share a brief spiritual message each month. Ideally, it’s an opportunity to become friends with those you visit and invest yourself in their welfare.

Terry Pratchett | Mort

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