This week was a good week, but this email will be short because not
TOO much happened. It was a great spiritual week for me, and I have
really been focusing on building up spiritually. It happened to be a
perfect week for that because we got to go to the temple twice! :)
Along with that, there were a few things that happened this week that
really could have thrown me down, but for some reason I just felt so
comforted like all would work out. This week was also full of tender
mercies. I think I've finally learned to look on the bright side. :)
We got to go to the temple on Saturday, and for the first time, I did
baptisms. :) It was Graciela's first trip to the temple, and President
Taggart allows us to go with new members even though it's not their
endowment. It was a great experience. I confirmed and baptized at
least 20 people. ;) The spirit is always so strong in the temple. It
was a nice feeling to be a part of helping more sounds come unto
Christ. As we went to the temple today, the same feeling of peace and
happiness was felt. I feel like I have a stronger testimony of the
temple since the last time I went, so it means more to me. It sure is
a blessing to have the opportunity to receive what we do though the
temples—such as having a family that lasts forever and providing that
opportunity to those who haven't had it. If one can truly come to
understand the meaning of the temple—not so much the "what's" or
"how's" of the temple—but ultimately the "why's", it all just comes
together and makes sense. After that understanding comes more of a
sense of "why wouldn't I go to the temple." And that is what I have
seen. The changes I can see in people's lives is so evident, I could
never deny the simplicity and divinity of having the blessings of the
temples on earth. I hope that all who have the opportunity to go take
advantage of it.
I received a message from Roberto this week that was truly a tender
mercy. He told me of how he has, since I've left, received the
Melchizedek Priesthood, participated in baptisms for the dead, and
even given his first two priesthood blessings. He is so solid, and I
just love hearing about how he is truly living the gospel. I look
forward to coming back for their temple sealing in November. :)
Rosa gave us a scare this week. She told us she doesn't want to go to
church anymore, and that she will not. :/ But then she went on to
explain... When she was in Mexico, she was a Psychologist and she had
to help quite a few young people overcome being molested at church
camps. No one would believe them so from that moment on she distanced
herself from organized religion, because she had so much pain and
hatred built up against the religious leaders who were involved. It
wasn't until we came by that it was the first time she had gone to
church. She said that although she loves the environment, it reminds
her of those experiences and that she needs to figure that out before
she can come back. It is something that has been really hard on her...
However, a few of the ward members came with us this week to work on
her yard and while we were there, our ward mission leader talked to
her. We aren't exactly sure what was said, but she showed up out of
nowhere on Sunday! We were just planning on Vlad showing up, but then
she came in after him. It was great! We were so happy to see them. I
just love them and she talked about wanting to meet you again, Mom. :)
She's awesome—and Vlad was hanging with us and working near us to talk
to us during service. He keeps saying that he has already seen a
difference and he loves it. We are so grateful to be helping them!
Now a quick update on the other investigators. Juan (the ex-agnostic)
is SO set. We talked to him about the temples and he just soaked it
all in like it was nothing. He has been prepared, for sure. He finally
got Sundays off, so he is coming this Sunday! :) Ramon (the smoker)
said that he wants to keep smoking and doesn't want us coming over
anymore. We think he just relapsed, so we are going to see if we can
help him understand it doesn't have to be the end. So please pray for
him as well! More updates next week—all out of time again! :/
Well, I hope you are all doing well! The work out here is great! So
much to do, I am so glad that we have another Elder Gallego and Elder
Sewell to help out. :) Love you so much! Cuídense!
"I think there is no place in the world where I feel closer to The
Lord than in one of his holy temples." President Thomas S. Monson
P.S. Check out the cool knot I tied! :)
P.P.S. Our district is GQ.
P.P.P.S. Elder Andersen came back!
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
What a blessing it is to live in this country! Another thing I have developed out here is a sense of patriotism. I'm sure it's because of the humbling experience of being among some people that aren't the most "well-off" and hearing about stories from other countries. Not to mention the fact that this land was prepared by God to be a land of religious freedom. It is such a blessing. Although freedom does still come at a cost, it's one of the greatest blessings given us from God to defend. I'm grateful to those who give their lives to protect it. We are blessed to be there, so we must first and forever remember the source of it all; what's printed on the back of every paper bill we have: "In God We Trust". America!
This week was a lot of fun! I have never been so patriotic. ha I even bought a USA futbol jersey! I'm pretty sure that's the first patriotic-print clothing I have I ever had. ha It is pretty sweet! I got a good deal and it has my name and lucky number and all. Happy Birthday to me! ;) The fireworks here were INSANE! I will try to send some videos I recorded. It was like we were in the middle of a battle. Santa Ana is crazy. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE was lighting things off...and of course they weren't the legal kind. What else is new here. ha They were flying everywhere! It was so much fun to look in every direction and just see them anywhere! It is definitely blows my experience last year out of the water. The protecting angels were busy for sure. Especially for the elders who apparently biked through the roughest area and bottle rockets were flying all around them as they rode. haha We're all safe, though!
Rosa and Vladimir are great! They came to church yesterday together and loved it once again. They already fit in so well, and it is obvious that God has been preparing them for a long time. We haven't been able to meet with Vladimir since that first night we met him, but on Sunday he told me that he can already see a difference. He says that even since that one night he feels different and things are working out in his life. They are both so great and I love them. :) Luckily, they love us, too :). The whole ward wants to help out with the yard and painting, so there is going to be a big ward service project at their house this week. We're excited for that! :) They are both reading and praying, too. They are so solid, and are truly seeking for the truth. We're very excited to keep working with them.
SO, last week, I wasn't able to even get in all the info, so another update is Juan Hernandez. The elders met with him a couple weeks before I showed up. They knocked into him and he let them in, for the first time, he says. He said he had talked with missionaries before, but it was more to bash with them and prove them wrong, because he was Agnostic. He would always look for the loophole in what they had to say. A few months ago, however, he was going through a really hard time and really wanted to know if, indeed, there was a God, because the God he knew was a tyrannous God that just always wanted to inflict pain on everyone. He understood him to be angry all the time and that he had already mapped out our destiny, so we have no choice, we are just going to heaven and hell so it doesn't really matter what we do. He said he just doesn't understand how a God could be that way. It didn't seem just and fair to him. Well, he figured things out in his life and decided that he was going to put it to the test, but that he didn't want to do it in time of need. He wanted to do it when everything was alright so it didn't seem like he was only doing it because he needed him. He wanted to be on good terms with him. He prayed one day and poured out his heart and the next day the missionaries showed up at his door.
Since that day, he genuinely has put things to the test. I came in right after the lesson of the Plan of Salvation and it blew his mind how just and fair God really is. From there, he has even grown more! He prayed about it all and has been reading the Book of Mormon like crazy and it has completely changed his perception on life and God. He can feel a relationship building between him and God. And he says it's not so much that he is worried about where he ends up, as much as he wanted to be on "good terms" with him and once he found out he really is there to really get to know him and follow what he wants him to do. We have been able to answer so many of his doubts and we taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how that is what God wants us to do in our lives. He told us to tell him about baptism and what he needs to do to be baptized. Yes, HE asked US about baptism. ha When we explained it all to him, he told us he wants to be baptized as soon as possible. O.O It was so cool! He said that he is sure this is the right path for him, and now he wants to do it! He just needs to come to church and he's set! He talked to his boss Saturday about getting Sundays off so he can go, and he will be telling us about how that goes Tuesday. He said nothing can change his mind. He said that the fact that he has come from almost Atheist and arguing with everyone about religion and always being angry to believing in God, feeling his love, learning of who he truly is-a loving Father in Heaven that wants the best for us-and being positive to the point that all of his friends are telling him "whatever you're doing, keep doing it" proves to him it is true. He is so solid and as soon as he comes to church twice and we finish teaching him, he will be baptized. We're so proud of him. The truth can not be denied if you truly put it to the test. He said, "If you don't feel it's right, it's because you haven't given it a chance." He's solid, and we are excited for him!
Please continue to keep them all in your prayers. We are teaching another woman named Pilar, who is the cousin of a reactivating member who is progressing really well, but once more happens with her, I will explain more...which will probably be next week. :)
I love you all very much! Thank you for all the birthday wishes. I love you very much and I am grateful for the support and love from you all. I can't wait to see you again. Wrapping up a mission is SO hard! I try not to think about it, but it doesn't help that everyone asks "how long have you been on your mission"-to which the rest of the conversation is inevitable! :/ This last week I had a dream about coming home EVERY SINGLE NIGHT! ha Ugh...I love you all very much and am very excited, but I sure am going to miss this. Please pray I can finish strong. Don't recommend going home to anyone! ha I love the mission and will continue to work hard until the end-as I have said many times. ha I appreciate very much the support and love from home, though. You are all so special, and I hope you are doing well! Take care and see you soon. :)
"And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike, so long as the Lord sees fit that we may live and inherit the land..." the Prophet Mosiah of the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 29:32)
This week was incredible! I was praying so hard for the chance to find prepared people so I didn't have to worry about being distracted and bored at the end of my mission, and wow. Heavenly Father was definitely listening. I will be busy the rest of my mission, for sure! Well, not that I already wasn't going to be, but this just secured our plans being filled rather than roaming the streets for people to teach. This surely is God's work, I am sure of it.
It was a busy week aside from the amazing guidance we received. For starters, the Bowens left. :( The Taggarts are wonderful people and they are exactly right to fill in for the Bowens, but they will be greatly missed. Sure love them and I look forward to seeing them again, soon! :) Before they left, a small group of 8 was organized to sing a goodbye song for them and a welcome song for the Taggarts. I was one of the "chosen" and we had to throw something quick together in 2 days. It worked out, though, because those that were selected all had musical background, so we did a nice rendition of "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go". The Spirit was felt super strong, and it was heart-wrenching to realize it was the end of their run, but at the same time, it was comforting to know that God selected such a special couple that we were able to welcome.
This week was FULL of music! Along with singing to the Bowens and Taggarts, there is a Sister in the district who is setting up a portfolio to apply to the BYU music program because she is finishing her mission soon, too. Well, the other two companionships (including the sisters) in the district are on bike, so we are the transportation. I felt like a "soccer mom" when I was the van driver in Anaheim, but this is a whole new level! We were together in the van driving all over the place every day this week. It was a miracle we were even able to get out and really work. So we were helping her with that, as well as preparing a musical number for "Missionary Sunday" yesterday and teaching music classes on Thursday nights. The great thing is, this whole district has musical talent (besides one of the sisters...she's tone deaf ;)), so it's been a group effort and it's been a lot of fun.
Graciela was confirmed in Church yesterday, and my goodness, after getting to know her even more. She was SO prepared! She has such a strong testimony. After her confirmation, she bore her testimony and it was super powerful! She shared how she was introduced to the church after a member from the ward's father passed away and she saw how strong the whole family was through it. We realized that she wanted that peace during trials and she wanted to be closer to that family. The day of the funeral in the church, she asked the family to invite her back for the church services, and she hasn't missed a Sunday since. She also reads and prays every day and even asks us for reading assignments whenever she sees us. She is super strong and in her baptism and confirmation, she felt the Spirit so strong. I couldn't believe she wasn't already a member. She acted and had a testimony just like any other-well, now she is! She's very powerful and will be a great member and missionary in sharing this gospel to those in need. This ward is very solid right now!
Yesterday was just a great day in general! Five of the people we are teaching were at church, so we were running all over the place trying to keep up with them all. The members are great, though, and did an excellent job helping us out in supporting the investigators and helping them feel the true love of Christ. There is one man named Ramon Gahona that we met last week that really wants to quit smoking. He smokes a pack a day and can barely sit through a lesson with us without shaking and losing concentration because he wants to smoke so bad. It's intense how strong his addiction is. Well, a member that went with us to a lesson with him picked him up and brought him to church. They showed up a little early because we had to practice our song, and we told him we would sit with him in a second after we practiced the song. Well, in the middle of the practice, he left to smoke. He came back and sat down and in the middle of sacrament meeting, he got up and left again. We followed him out and he was smoking in the parking lot. Well....as I get closer to the end of my mission, I have become a lot more direct...still loving, but direct. I grabbed the cigarette from his hand, stomped it out, put my arm around him and told him I love him and want him to stop smoking. We found where he had left the other cigarette from earlier and walked him to the trashcan to throw away the buds. We walked around a little in the parking lot to air out and make a plan with him on how he was going to stop smoking, but, unfortunately, the sacrament room did still smell like smoke... He is still welcome and our brother. The sad thing was, I, too, smelled like smoke. :/ It was awkward...and gave me a bad headache. It made me so stressed out, but one of the members gave me some lotion...well, actually a lot of it, because soap wouldn't make it go away! It's was stressful, but by the end of the meetings, I smelled like a girl...better than smoke! ha He made it 2 hours without smoking! We were so proud of him. :) He had to leave the third hour, but that was a great start. He is going to decrease by 5 cigarettes a day each week. He's going to do it! Stressful situation, but worth it to get him thinking. He said it's exactly what he needed. We have faith it will work!
I would love to tell you about all the people we came in contact with this week, but unfortunately, as you know, time won't allow it. I wanted to share with you one of the most remarkable experiences I have had my whole mission, though. Just for quick foreshadowing, we met this woman Saturday night and there is already so much to tell you, I don't even know where to start. But I'll start with how we met her. Rosa. Let's just say that we were NOT supposed to meet her. We had a set lesson/dinner that we had been planning on for the whole week that was cancelled, and then we had a solid back-up, and they, too, cancelled. Well, we were planning on going to another area, but then Elder Sorensen brought up someone we had been trying to find for quite some time. We went to visit them, and they weren't home either. So, reluctant to just result to knocking doors, we headed back to the car to go visit a member. We were lost, so we kind of took the wrong way...at least that's what we thought. It was no coincidence. Judging by our plans, we weren't supposed to meet her, but yet we were.
We were walking down the street Saturday and we saw her weeding and we thought we should ask her if we could help. She really didn't want us to because we dressed up all nice, but we convinced her eventually. :) She looked at us for a moment, paused, and asked, "you're Mormons." We responded a little unsure of where this was headed (for those who have been in this situation, that question can either be followed by something great, or something bad ha). She explained that she loves Mormons! She shared that she's had tons of great experiences with Mormons! She took a trip by herself to Utah for a Temple Square Tour. She has a Mormon friend that invited her to a wedding. And has even gone on a mini trek in memory of the pioneers. We. Were. Shocked. After talking with her a little more and letting her know that we are willing to come over and help her with her yard and painting the house and finishing her table, and on top of it all, we had an amazing message that will bring her much peace, joy, and comfort, she began to cry. Just minutes before we arrived, she was working along in her garden and just felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. She felt so alone and has so much work to do and was just so overwhelmed, and so she prayed to God to have him show her that he really was there and listening to her. She asked him to give her a sign of the path she needs to take and something that will bring her peace, joy, and comfort. She said that I shared the exact same words that she shared in her prayer. Her prayers were answered. So were mine.
I had been praying for an opportunity to have someone to share the gospel with that will actually be willing to progress. Someone who has been prepared. And secretly, I have always wanted an experience like that. Where we arrive just after a prayer. It was an amazing experience and builds my faith even more that God truly does answer prayers!
As time has gone on, this has been more and more she shared that she has never gotten involved because she thought it was exclusive and she had to be invited in...well we put a quick stop to that understanding! We invited her to come to church and she was hesitant at first because the Mexico game was the same time haha, but she committed to come because she said that she knows we were the sign from God. She is soo awesome and super nice and humble! Later she told us after we left she felt so good she couldn't even sleep. She showed up to church yesterday and absolutely loved it-especially the musical number that all us missionaries and the ward missionaries sang. The EFY Medley "As Sisters in Zion/We'll Bring the World His Truth." She is so excited to go back! Now, on top of it all, she has a son who is just as amazing! (Sorry this is another long one :/)
His name is Vladimir, and we met him last night. He was super open and just as inviting, and he shared with us that he hasn't talked to people about religion in a LONG time. His mom was so surprised he was talking to us, too. We just felt like they were family. We met her two days ago and met him last night, and we are all already super close. They love us and we love them! She shared with us that we felt familiar to her. Like she knew us before. I truly believe that we were friends before this life and we were meant to meet. Just when we both needed it. Well, the conversation got to what we are supposed to do on Sundays, and it was like having a member with us because we had just talked about the Sabbath Day for gospel principles at church and Rosa helped us out. It was incredible. And get this, by the end of the lesson, he had called Disneyland when he went inside to grab something and got all his Sundays off from now on. Once again. We. Were. Shocked. This family is amazing and it has been such a blessing to see the true intentions they have. They committed themselves to be baptized the 27th of July. My last Sunday here and her birthday. :)
I'm blown away by this miracle this week, and I am just 100% positive that this work is true. Like I already said, we weren't supposed to meet them, but yet we were. They are such a strong testimony to me that God is preparing people all over for this message. We just need to open our mouths and speak. This mission is amazing, and I wouldn't trade all the amazing experiences for anything. I have even more I want to tell you about, but I should end it here since this is ridiculously long. Sorry, for those who actually still read these. ;) Love you all so much, and I hope you enjoy your vacation! Take care!
P.S. There was a riot here last week when Mexico won. haha Kept us from going home until 10:15. The World Cup sure is a damper on missionary work. ;) But it sure is great! ha
P.P.S. District Meeting was great this week-Elder Lindsay does an excellent job, and he motivated us to talk to everyone. We feel that played a huge part in meeting Rosa. This is his quote:
"When unsure whether you have received a spiritual prompting, think about this. Either it IS a spiritual prompting, or you are showing God that you are willing to follow promptings. Is either one a bad thing? No. So don't be afraid to follow everything...you are called of God." Boss.