Monday, May 25, 2015

Week 13

Ready to work!

This week has been wonderful. First of all we had a noche do hogar (Family Night) with our recent convert family of 6 and they had invited their family friends who are also new investigators for us. It was super fun and a pleasure to show the familia Villela how to conduct one and we included a lesson to our investigators Alma and Gaudi about the Restauration and el Libro de Mormon:). They are super prepared to receive the gospel, and it has been especially powerful to teach them the lessons in a member house with their friends. The obstacle we are facing with them is that Alma is concerned how her husband might react to the teachings because he is a "little different" as she explained. That is partly why we haven't taught her in her own house yet, but we are praying for her and giving her time to bring it up to her husband, and I have faith that they will find a way and we will be there for them every step of the way!

The thing I have been especially working on is my obedience. The problem isn't following the mission or missionary rules, those I always strive to keep with exactness. What my companion has been helping me realize is that sometimes I don't open myself up to suggestions as much as I should. I like to always think that my thoughts and ways are always right and always the best. I feel that as I've recognized this weakness I have been able to notice when I'm trying to force my ideas upon others, and have tried to be more submissive to the wisdom they have. I'm grateful to have a companion that truly cares about me and my growth and helps me to work on making my weaknesses become strengths.

This week has been crazy busy, which makes it fly by. We have 10 investigators with baptismal dates, but the challenge has been trying to get them to come to church. We have been helping them understand the importance of going to church and encouraging them to see the effects of it for themselves so that they will desire to keep coming, and finally to get them to meet more members and feel more welcomed. Yesterday was a little discouraging because none of our investigators were able to make it and even some of our recent converts missed it too. We are going to make sure to visit all of them this week and give them encouragement as well as reemphasize the importance and need to come since firstly it's a commandment. Plus it brings so much more happiness and meaning to life I believe. 

I bought a minion mini speaker!

"Bottom, he he he!"

The weather is very bipolar right now, one day its almost 100 degrees and clear, the next day it's crazy stormy and in the 70-80's. Which is pretty funny that it feels a little chilly those days! Anyway, Saturday night we had a huge storm that knocked out our power while I was eating cereal for a night snack. I was finally able to make good use of my headlamp I brought though! Also our house started flooding again which was fun, but luckily it didn't get too bad this time. Also this morning my companion and I decided to clean the house and I went all out with the kitchen. It's funny how much of a neat freak I've turned into now that I'm out on my own, but I guess I just take more personal responsibility now when it's my own little house I'm living in. 

I went a little crazy and moved everything out from the kitchen to clean it.

It's my companion's turn to clean the bathroom :)

Our kitchen. The end results of my intense cleaning!

Yeah, the fridge is pretty small.

This week I've started realizing just how far my Spanish has come as I am able to understand more and more and speak more instinctively. For example yesterday in church an ex-member of the 70 spoke (which was really awesome and powerful like a general conference talk) and I understood almost everything he said, when just a month and a half ago I watched general conference in Spanish and could barely understand anything. I know that I couldn't be progressing as far as I am without the Lord's help and I am very thankful for his hand in my life. I want to make sure to repay him by working hard every day and never allowing myself to become complacent with my language, teaching and leadership skills. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 12

Well, it's been another amazing week full of experiences and growth and I wish I had time to explain them all because there is a lot! Anyways last Wednesday in particular I had a cool spiritual experience and well multiple. I had exchanges with Elder Hernandez, who's the companion of our District Leader, and to start off he needed to go take out money from an ATM since he was completely broke. (This tends to happen a lot with missionaries because they struggle with budgeting:P) Anyways he first used the ATM to check his balance but wanted to wait and talk to our fellow missionaries about his situation, and I used the same machine after him just to check my balance as well. We then went to talk to the other missionaries who were waiting nearby and he talked with them for a little about how they are all broke and then decided to go back and take out just 50 pesos to get by. To his horror when he went to pull out his missionary debit card, it was missing! He looked all over for it but it was nowhere to be found even after turning his wallet inside out practically and retracing our steps. I had used the machine after him so at least we knew that he hadn't left it there to be stolen. Finally we gave up and decided to leave. When waiting for a bus, we decided to pray for help and I truly had faith that it would work out. Afterwards he pulled out his wallet once more, and this time I had a thought of where it could be and reached over and pointed out where it was. Amazingly there it was in a secret little pocket he never uses and didn't even think a card could fit there!! I was amazed at how quickly our prayer was answered because in the prayer I specifically plead that we would be able to work hard the rest of the day without worrying about it, but I didn't pray for an instant fix like that. It was a huge blessing to have been able to find it before going out to work so that we could have a clear and sound mind. Wasn't the coolest story ever, I know, but it really had an impression on me and little experiences like this help build me faith in the power of prayer:)

There were a lot of other cool experiences with Hernandez, but I want to talk more about the new investigators we are teaching. It's a family with 4 kids. The mother is named Alma (freaking awesome name) and we met her when we were giving a lesson to the Villela family who were baptized recently, and Alma happened to come by since her family are good friends with the Villelas especially Alma and Claudia the two mothers. We invited Alma to another lesson and eventually started focusing the lessons on her and her daughter Gaudi in specific and wow have they been prepared! For example when we asked who would like to give the closing prayer during the first lesson, little 10 year old Gaudi raised her hand, even though she had no idea how. We taught them and the little girl said her first prayer aloud, but the coolest part was that she struggled a little during, but her mother Alma was right there to help her through, even though she herself was new with it. I can already see a lot of growth with them, and I hope we can help them bring the gospel into their lives because I know how big of a blessing it is! The only problem is that we haven't met her husband yet and she expressed some concerns about him, but I have faith that it'll all work out:) We have a lot of other cool investigators right now and lots of baptismal dates. The problem we are experiencing now is getting them to church. We had 9 committed to come to church and planned it all out, and yet only 1 was able to make it. That was a little discouraging, but I understand that these things take time and that we can only encourage them and continue to invite them and pray that they will be impressed upon to get there.

Other than that it's starting to heat up again. There was one day this week where it got up to about 100! What's really annoying though is when it's super hot and it's also raining because it's too hot for a rain jacket, but it's something I'll just have to get used to! Also I'm really starting to enjoy my mission every day, and I think ultimately it's my love for the people, culture and language that has influenced that. Anyways, LOVE YOU ALL, have a wonderful week everyone:)

(Sorry no pictures this week.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Week 11

Eating my first mango (my new favorite fruit!).

Well today marks the end of my first transfer period of the mission field, only 16 transfers left (6 weeks a piece)!!! It's been a wonderful week and I truly feel like I've grown a ton. The two highlights or turning points of my week were my intercambios (exchanges) with my Zone Leader Elder Bautista and some training I had in the mission office with the assistants to the President, volunteer missionaries and Presidente Bird himself. I received really constructive feedback from the practices and training I went through which I've taken into action in my lessons. Also they showed a video at the end really hit me hard. It pointed out some aspects of the atonement that I had never thought of before and made me realize how much Christ did for me and how much I should be giving back. I especially liked a couple parts. First ,Presidente Eyring explained how the atonement motivated him and he explained that after Christ submitted himself to his father on the cross, he started right up again preaching to the dead. Even when I feel as though I've given enough, I want to always think back to Christ's atonement and how it's never over and I can always give more. The other big thing that hit me was how Elder Holland explained that Salvation never has been, and never will be easy, and that's why missionary work can be so hard, and it's why we get rejected so much and disappointed when people don't keep commitments. The reality is that it isn't supposed to be easy. Otherwise everyone would get a free ride and that's Satan's plan, not the plan that Jesus has laid out for us. Finally I learned a ton about how to contact and also was placed in a position where I had to lead lessons for the first time with Elder Bautista. So I'm extremely thankful to had been given the opportunity to work with such a wonderful Leader of mine. Can't wait to continue working hard and see where another week can take me!

My hair is starting to get a little wild...getting a hair cut later today though!

Also I had a wonderful experience after the Training in the mission office. When we returned to our house, my companion went to use the bathroom for his usual lengthy time period (sorry if that's a little tmi) which is actually quite nice because it gives me time to do some extra studying and also reflect on things. I thought about that video and decided to write down my thoughts in my journal because I didn't want to forget those powerful emotions. As I was writing I remembered a section of a manual called "How to adjust to missionary life" where Gordon B. Hinckley explains an experience he had on his mission. He was having a rough time and he wrote a letter expressing his emotions to his father and the response he received was powerful. His father wrote back "Forget yourself and go to work" and included a scripture in Mark 8:35 which says

"For whosoever shall save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it."

Gordon B Hinckley then explained how he took what his father said to heart and made a covenant with Heavenly Father to forget himself and get to work, and he said that he had a wonderful mission from that day forth and is forever grateful for it. After reflecting back on this story I felt an impression to grab my scriptures, patriarchal blessing and went into an extra room we have, closed the door and kneeled down. Then I opened up my scriptures to Mark 8:35, read it once again, read through my own personal scripture (patriarchal blessing), and after that prayed to my Heavenly Father probably harder than I've ever prayed before. I gave huge thanks in detail for everything I have been given in life and explained how I recognize that the Lord truly has influenced my life in infinite ways. Then I made my own personal covenant with my Father in Heaven that I would truly forget myself and go to work. I know that I can't nearly express the magnitude of impact this experience had on me, but it's something that I will always look back on, May 7, 2015 as a turning point in my mission.

Skyping with my family and Krystina (whose on her mission in Florida).

The Lord truly knows us individually and knew that the events that I experienced this week would bring me to come before him as I did. Plus, after Skyping my family yesterday, I realized that if things hadn't gone the way they had, I don't know if I would have been able to handle seeing my family without breaking down because I was having a lot of homesickness at times. Part of losing myself in the work, is to not focus on or worry about my family back in Oregon, which might sound harsh, but it's the truth. My family is now my companion, my fellow missionaries and most importantly the people I am serving. There has been a drastic change in the way I think, act and feel ever since this experience I had. I see the people in a different way and truly desire their salvation, I pray for them night and day, I work my hardest and do my best to be exactly obedient so that I can qualify for the Spirit, which is the only way I can help bring them to the truth because it's not me who will teach and convert them. It's the Spirit. I love the opportunity I have been given to serve, and hope that I can continue to grow so that I can fulfill all the plans the Lord has in store for me. 

Tan line from my watch.

My Zone ordered personalized Tigres Jerseys!!! It's a local soccer team that I'm now a fan of.  My Zone is "Humildad" which is the Spanish word for Humility:)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Week 10

Baptism of Jorge, Claudia, Lois, Eric, Oriel, and Daniela. The familia Villela Esqivel:D

Wow I can't believe it's already my 6th week in the mission field! That means I'll have completed my first transfer period already and I'll be halfway done with my training!! This week has been really busy with the normal missionary agenda, but also we had to plan out a baptism for the family my companion and I have been helping prepare. They were finally married officially last Thursday and so all that was left was to plan out and execute the baptismal service. It was a big burden resting on our shoulders to work everything out, but we had a lot of help and were more than happy to do everything we could to ensure it would be a special occasion. In total there was going to be 6 baptisms of: the parents, Claudia and Jorge, and the children, Lois, Eric, Oriel, and Daniela, so it was quite the scramble to figure out who each of them wanted to baptize them, and also to find enough white clothing since the chapel here doesn't have hardly anything to work with. Luckily, we have 8 missionaries in our ward, so with all their white clothing and a few members as well, we were able to mix and match a full set of white baptismal clothing for the entire family. Since my companion and I came into this area after this family had been taught for quite a few months, they were very close with the last missionaries, so they requested them to do their baptisms, except the father Jorge. He said he wanted one of us to perform his ordinance. We talked it over and decided that I would do the baptism since I haven't had the chance yet and also my companion was going to baptize someone in his last area on Saturday too.

The baptismal service that my companion and I traveled to on Saturday was really cool. The chapel was a lot smaller and so was the ward, but yet there was quite a showing of support. My companion baptized a little girl named Yurit who's father was also baptized that night. It was a very spiritual experience, and I especially appreciated when my companion, Elder Toledano, bore his testimony and shared his love for the people he had served in his last area. It made me realize how blessed I am to have my companion and his kind loving heart as well as his firm testimony and dedication.
The baptismal service of the family Villela Esqivel was yesterday, right after church. I was pretty nervous, but the spirit was very strong and comforted me. After we all got in our whites and took pictures, we had a wonderful service with very spiritual messages and sang songs like "Families Can Be Together Forever" since it was a very family-oriented service. I baptized Jorge first, and I found out the hard way that I had practiced wrong, missing the word "yo", probably because it's an optional word in Spanish so I skipped over it mentally when copying it down to study. Luckily I had two loving missionaries witnessing the ordinance and they kindly corrected me and I said it again with the correct wording and all was well. Then, all the rest of the family were baptized and we ended the service extending welcomes and all came up to give the family hugs and congratulations. Overall, it was a super amazing experience for everyone, and I especially hope that this family will remember it for the rest of their lives and for all eternity. I can't wait for them to be able to be confirmed next week and to continue supporting them and helping them work towards being sealed as a family for eternity in one year!:D

I made pancakes yesterday!

My freezer mug! Yes!!

The rest of my birthday purchases. Yum!

Recently, I have been reading in Mosiah and have learned a lot about repentance. Especially from the stories of Alma, who was a priest of wicked King Noah, his son, and also the sons of Mosiah. When Abinadi preached before King Noah and his priests, Alma recognized him as a prophet of God and stood up for him against the King. I marvel at his courage to stand up for what is right, even to the extent where he lost his high position, wealth, and almost his very life. More than that he followed the counsel of Abinadi and repented of his many sins and wickedness. That required a lot of faith. Then there are the Sons of Mosiah and Alma the Younger who were performing the most abominable of sins, even denying the Holy Spirit and seeking to destroy the Church. Luckily, Alma and Mosiah were strong men of the faith and were praying their hearts out for their troubled sons. Alma and Mosiah's prayers were answered in a wondrous way when an Angel appeared before these young men and told them of their wrong doings and admonished them to stop their wickedness and repent. They eventually all repented of their sins, and what I love about their story is the example they set of true repentance. Not only did they stop their abominations, they had a true change of heart and acted to fix their wrong doings to the best of their abilities. Not only that but as expressed in one of my new favorite scriptures in Mosiah 28:3 "Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thought that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble." They developed the true desire to bring others unto Christ that they might be saved. This is a wonderful example of repentance in its fullness, bringing oneself in line with the will of God. I hope to learn from their example, especially of their desire to bring about the salvation of others.

I truly am having a wonderful time here. I can feel the growth occurring inside me as I devote all my soul to this mission. The people and culture here are amazing and I love them more and more every day. I recognize that I have many weaknesses, but I know that I can overcome them as I put my trust in the Lord because I'm out here doing His work of salvation.