Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Week 4

Holding the best book in the world!

Hola everyone:) This has been a long week full of incredible experiences and growth and I love every minute of it.. Starting off with later in the day last Tuesday we had a devotional broadcast and this one was special because it was a LIVE broadcast from the Provo MTC. Quentin L. Cook and his wife Sister Cook spoke and I thoroughly enjoyed it. First of all Sister Cook talked briefly and she brought up Primary songs and how they contain many gospel principles and she sang little bits and pieces of some of her favorites. This touched my heart as I was taken back to my days as a primary child and envisioned myself singing those songs.. It was really powerful to me because it made me realize how lucky I am to have grown up in the gospel. Although at the time I was too young to understand a lot of the messages, but now I can see that these gospel principles became an impression on my heart. I just want to thank you Mom and Dad for raising me in the Church, my love of my life has grown considerably since leaving and so has my love of those I left behind. I know that my Heavenly Father is looking out for all of you, and what a wonderful assurance that is. This idea was actually spoke of by Elder Cook in his Devotional. He spoke on how serving a mission will bless everyone you love, but what really hit me was when he further endeavored on the subject by explaining how it will not only bless your family now, but also in the future it will bless your spouse, your children, as well as everyone else you come in contact with for the rest of your life. It´s amazing to think that my hard work I put in now, will directly benefit my family, now and in the future. There is literally nothing better I could be doing with my life at this point then serving my mission. I doubt many people in the world can confidently say that and what an incredible blessing that is. It brings me so much joy to know these things and I know these impressions could not come from anyone on this Earth. My Father in Heaven loves me and wants me to be happy which is why he called these wonderful Apostles to lead his Church.

After the Devotional we headed to our classrooms to discuss what we learned just as we always do. My District has a spiritually uplifting discussion during which we started talking about our circumstances leading up to our missions. As we shared our thoughts a storm was brewing outside. The wind picked up first; followed by lightning and thunder and finally hail as big as marbles shot down from above with great force. The storm grew so furious that the sound overcame our voices and we had to yell to each other and finally the power went out after a bolt of lightning so close that the thunder followed immediately and the tremendous crack silenced us. The room was pitch black and silent for almost a minute when the lights came back on finally. After the power came back on our District came out of our room and heard that an Hermana next door was having an anxiety attack and needed a blessing. She was frightened by the storm so much that she was in tears. Roughly ten of us Elders encircled her and laid our hands upon head as Elder Reese gave her a blessing. Immediately as the first word came out of his mouth, the hail directly above us ceased and the storm quieted significantly. He gave her comfort and ensured that she would be kept safe that night. I truly believe this was a miracle because while we gave the blessing the hail parted from above us, but I could still hear it next door and outside. It made me think of a story in the New Testament where Jesus and some of his Apostles were in a fishing boat and a storm almost overtook their ship when they pleaded for help from their Master. He then proceeded to calm the skies and they did not perish. I hold the same power and authority that Jesus Christ used to perform all the mighty miracles during his ministry. That power is called the Priesthood which is the power and authority to act in God´s name. Also as a Missionary I have been called and set apart specifically to represent Jesus Christ. I have heard this statement many times since arriving here at the Missionary Training Center in Mexico, but I never realized what that truly means until after this experience. After the blessing all the Districts in our building came together and began to sing Hymnos together. I don´t know who´s idea it was, but I am very grateful someone thought of that because it was another powerful experience. Almost 50 missionaries were singing and it was amazing. Our voices soon overtook the storms fury and it brought great comfort to all of us. Once the storm for the most part was gone, we then said a prayer and gave thanks for our safety thus far and asked to be watched over as we walk to our houses. We all did arrive home safely, but our streets were flooded and in one street near my house it flooded so much that some missionaries were out there in shorts wading in it. That wasn´t very smart of them though, because it´s against mission rules and being exactly obedient is what keeps Missionaries safe, but I´ll talk about this in a minute. All this happened between after I sent last week´s email and that night when we went to sleep.
Wet bag from the storm
Wet suit from the storm
Many, many wonderful experiences occurred this week and I wish I had time to share them but I´m already starting to ramble so I´ll try to summarize my favorite parts of the week. On Wednesday in class we watched a section of a Devotional by Elder Bednar and he talked about a question a lot of missionaries have and that is how to be lead by the spirit. He explained how rarely if ever will you know in the moment that you are being lead by the Spirit. usually this comes later when you think back and realize that it had been there guiding you all along. The way we can know we are being led by the Spirit is if we are being "good girls and boys" as he put it. That means we need to be exactly obedient in all things. That means following mission rules, keeping all commandments and standards, and diligently striving to become like Christ.

On Thursday I got discouraged after a rough lesson with our "Investigator" Miguel. He asked us questions about baptism that we didn´t know how to respond to and there was a silence for a good three minutes. Ultimately I just told him we are sorry we don´t know how to answer his question right now, but that we would study about it and come back next time with some answers. Luckily later that day my confidence came back when we had TRC which is where we give a lesson to a real native speaker, generally they are a member but it´s still a really good experience. I was amazed at how much I had improved since last week and how much more I could understand. Of course I still missed a lot of what they were saying and spoke slow and probably with a lot of mistakes, but I´m almost getting to the point where I´m functional at the most basic level. And it had only been roughly 3 weeks. How´s that for a miracle! This is the Lord´s work so he provides a way. I know I have a long ways to go with the language and even farther with understanding the gospel, but I also know that if I strive to study and search diligently, I will accomplish many things that will be in store for me.

On Friday our afternoon teacher Hermano Cayetano gave us some words of advice that we need to take our language seriously if we want to reach our full potential of growth at the CCM. He challenged us as a District to commit to speaking completely in Spanish. All day every day. It was a bold challenge but it´s also exactly what we need. The language will never come unless we are practicing continually. It´s what improves our speed and ability to speak Spanish. We took this challenge seriously at first and it was a really cool experience. We were able to for the most part refrain from using English. Of course our talk we very simple, but we were functioning. Sadly this has kind of broken up since then and we aren´t keeping the commitment. Some of us are trying to continue this task, but it´s hard when not even our whole District is following our example and also hardly any other non native missionary takes this seriously. I know that if I try my hardest to speak as much as I can without using English, that my skills will grow tremendously.
Working out in the awesome weight room the CCM has, I´m going to miss it :´(
Saturday was PIE DAY!!!! Not only that but at 9:26:53 PM it was 3-14-15 9:26:53. 3.141592653, that's 10 digits long!!! I hope you appreciate this as much as I do Mom, it won´t happen again for a very long time. I love math!! And I miss it too which is kinda funny to think about. Anyways also this day a helper named Hermano Polo gave us a pep talk explaining how the general trend of Missionaries here at the CCM is that when they arrive they are super excited, but as the time passes by their excitement slowly diminishes. He encouraged us to break this trend and try to constantly strive to be happy and excited because we should be and he´s so right! I´ve been working really hard on this because I realized that I am habitually down looking and sometimes appear angry even when I´m not actually. I´ve already started to see a change in my outward appearance and it actually makes me feel even happier and positive just by trying to do it. Fake it ´til you make it I guess. haha.

I LOVE SUNDAYS!!! I´m sorry if I always say that but it´s so true! The spirit is so much stronger, I receive answers to my prayers, I am able to hear amazing words of wisdom from Mission Leaders, General Authorities and from fellow Missionaries and also this week I was able to sing in the CCM choir! That was a lot of fun, we sang a medley of "Hark all ye Nations" and "I hope they call me on a mission". It was really cool and also another Elder asked me how long I´ve been taking voice lessons which was a huge compliment, but I know I´m really not that good. I just love singing in a choir and since there weren´t too many Elders singing so I sang super loud. I can´t let the Hermanas overpower the Elders! Anyways later our CCM Presidente Tenorio spoke on "Specific Prayers". This is something I´ve never been taught before and it´s super cool. It´s pretty self explanatory; it´s very difficult, but also very possible. Basically it´s asking for something very specific in prayer. This takes a lot of practice and you must be very in tune with the spirit. I hope to be able to say power prayers like this someday, but I realize I am still fairly inexperienced and need practice.

Later we heard from the Director of Training and Operations for the CCM named Shawn Cates. This man amazes me. He is only in his early thirties and yet he is very successful both in landing such a high up position, and more importantly his understanding of the gospel and missionary work. He talked about the Gift of Tongues and how we can qualify for it. I´ve already seen the influence of the Gift of Tongues in my growth in the language, but I realized I wasn´t fully taking advantage of it and I still am working on qualifying for it in it´s full glory. The first thing is to be motivated by your love for the people and the culture enough to learn the language.. Second we need to have the spirit which means we need to be exactly obedient. This was the overall message I took from this week. Exact obedience. Third we need to speak and study the language as much as possible. To make a commitment to do everything we can at all times to practice the language. This is a big difference for missionaries growth is how much they are practicing the language and it´s a fairly simple concept, but also extremely difficult to follow be cause of the temptation to speak your first language. Fourth we need to cry our guts out for the gift of tongues constantly. This is something I´ve neglected because I didn´t really understand how it works. Then the last thing Cates talked about was the importance of leaving our life before our missions behind. We can´t keep one foot stuck in the past and expect to succeed in the future. He told us how he had this problem at first on his mission, but he saw a huge change in his growth and success when he finally made an effort to let go of his life before.. I don´t think I have this problem as much as a lot of missionaries do, but I recognize that I do find myself thinking about my life before and everything. Of course we aren´t expected to completely forget our lives before like our families and friends, but we don´t need to be constantly dwelling upon them because they will be taken care of while we are pushing forward in the Lord´s work.

One last experience that was one of my favorites. Yesterday while our District was studying in our classroom, Hermano Polo came in and asked if anyone had consecrated oil on hand. It took me a second but then I remembered my little vial on my keychain that Bishop Alston had given as a mission present before I left so I offered it to him. He then told us that an Hermana was having problems with a stomach sickness and needed a blessing. He said that he would anoint the oil in Spanish and asked if I could say the blessing, but that I could say it in English.

I was terrified at first because I´ve never given a blessing before and I didn´t even know how, but I quickly turned to the back of my Missionary Handbook and found out how to say it. The necessary part is fairly simple, but the rest is kind of on your own. I agreed to give the blessing and we headed over to her classroom. I was still nervous, but as I put my hands on her head with some members of my District, I took the leap of faith to open my mouth and that´s when the spirit kicked in. Looking back afterwards I realized that for the first time I truly felt like I had been a mouthpiece for the Lord and that he had filled my mouth with words. I am really excited to strive to progress and be able to act as a mouthpiece more often because it´s an incredible experience. This week has been incredible and I love being here. I will be sad to have to leave in two weeks, but I´m also super excited at the same time.
Taking a break on Preparation Day

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