Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday September 14, 2014 - Leaving Behind a Legacy of LOVE

When I had the realization two years and a few weeks ago that I needed
to come on a mission… I don´t know if I would have believed it if
anyone tried to explain to me all that I was going to experience…
Sometimes I still have to remind myself that all of this is real..
Coming up on the end of everything, I obviously started to think about
all of the things that I´ve learned , seen, felt… how I´ve grown and
changed over these many months.
Starting out as a fresh missionary in Seattle, I quickly learned that
there really is no such thing as a ¨perfect missionary¨… but that each
of us has something to offer in this great work, and as we learn to
contribute, work hard, be obedient, and rely on the Lord, He works
with us to help us to become what He needs.
I learned quickly that it was impossible to ¨learn Spanish overnight¨,
or ¨master¨being a teacher… there were a lot of times when I realized
that I might not have all of the answers, but that if I could just LOVE
them, I was happy, and fulfilling part of my calling as a
representative of Jesus Christ. They might not remember all the words
I say, what lessons we taught on what day… but a quote from M. Russell
Ballard has often come back to my mind: ¨They will remember your
love.¨ I decided that I wanted THAT to be the legacy that I left
behind for these people. That I love my Savior, I love this work, I
love them, and that through my service they would be able to feel of
the love their Heavenly Father has for each of them.
I realized the power and influence of sharing with others the love of
their Heavenly Father. And that because I get to be His voice in this
work, that has come to mean that I have been able to of that love as
well. As time went on, I found it surprising how the Lord blessed me
with the capacity to love and understand these people so different
from myself.
Right before the end of His life, Christ taught His disciples an
important lesson, that made an impression on them, and it has made
it´s mark on me time and time again. He told them to ¨love one
another¨ even as He loves us. And then told them that that would be a
characteristic of their discipleship… that others would recognize them
as His disciples for the love they showed in their labors.
This week I have been studying Alma 26.. .my favorite always… and
really just focusing on all of the emotions that Ammón expresses about
the work and his experiences in the work of the Lord. In the end
inverse 31, he says: Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits
of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many;
yea, and we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love
towards their brethren and also towards us.
Then, he continues and asks them: ¨And now behold, I say unto you, has
there been so great love in all the land? Behold I say unto you, Nay,
there has not… ¨
The Lord has blessed me with several opportunities to be able to
return to my areas or to see people that I´ve worked with before…
Allowing me to see ¨the fruits¨of my labors, and really rejoice in the
progress that these people are making… leaving me so grateful that He
has allowed me to be a part of their lives.
I know that God lives. That THIS is His church. I know that His gospel
is the sure and solid foundation that we should build our lives on.
Faith is an action, and when planted, AND NOURISHED, it will grow.
Hope really is a powerful medicine.
Joy is a 3 letter word that I think I always associated with
Christmas… but it is a ¨condition of extreme happiness¨and is the
purpose of God´s work and glory.
MIRACLES really do exist. Big or small, they are always there, and are
wonderful reminders of how closely the Lord is working with us.
Happiness is so much more than just a ¨mood¨.. it´s a lifestyle, and
often time a choice.
LOVE is the essence of the gospel. It opens doors, heals the soul,
softens hears, overcomes obstacle, casts out fear, and is the greatest
of all motivations. It is the most pressing need that we have in the
world, yet something that is missing in the lives of so many.
My heart is so full of gratitude, and I love Argentina. The people,
their quirky culture. I honestly can´t imagine having served my
mission anywhere else. I still haven´t reached ¨perfection¨, in fact
the mission has a way of showing you just how Imperfect you are… but
the Lord is good at working with imperfect people, and I can honestly
say that I am happy, content, and feel like the Lord has blessed me to
be able to accomplish what He wanted of me in my time here.
I love this gospel. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I am so grateful
to have been a missionary these 18 months. To see the gospel in action
and learn how to see others and love them as Christ does. His life and
His labors were filled with His perfect love and infinite compassion
for others. Our goal is to become like Him, to invite others to come
unto Him, to share our faith, our hope, and our happiness with those
around us so that they too might know that He is. To feel of His
light, His truth and His LOVE.
That is the greatest legacy of all.

I love you all so much!
Hasta ver....SEE you next week!
Xoxox Your Hermana C

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday September 8, 2014 - I speak with boldness, having authority from God.

First off... sorry everyone if I can´t respond to everything this week... we arranged a day in Manzano... but for some reason our traffic was scheduled for super early.. so our email time is especially short today!
This week has been another ¨running like crazy¨... We were in Mendoza for 2 full days for consejo, then zone conference, we had a ton of meetings, coordinating, and activities and planning for the rama... it was a really long week... one of those where we just kept saying to each other ¨Sunday´s coming!¨ Numbers don´t even begin to show everything we´ve done this week, and it was a little hectic not being in the area to follow up on our investigators! But just like we said, Sunday came around, and everything all came together. At the beginning of the transfer, we set a goal with the elders that we wanted to work to double the assistance in sacrament meeting, and have, by the end of the transfer, 80 assistances. Yesterday, not even at the end of the transfer, there were 81!!!!! It was incredibly full!! just in time for the ramas to combine next week! 
We had a special fast as a rama for the ¨work of salvation¨, and the testimonies and experiences were incredible. Then, to top off the meeing, Juani came, and he gave his VERY FIRST ever testimony. It was SO great, and I was so proud of him!
My heart has been a little tender this week... and I feel like I´m wearing my emotions on my sleeve a lot more than normal...
I´ve had the goal this week to focus a lot on what we chose as our zone theme. Moroni 8:16. ¨I speak with boldness, having authority from God. And I fear not what men can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.¨
This week we had a multi-zone conference in Mendoza. After helping serve lunch, I went and sat down at the ¨Hermanas table¨ next to Hermana Goates who was chatting with 3 of the brand new norteamericanas.
I joined in, and then just started getting to know them. There´s a TON of newbies from Utah in this last group. They´re all so great, I love talking to new, fired-up missionaries! Then one of the Latino elders came up and asked me something, I answered, and then one of the hermanas turns to me ¨You speak REALLY well,¨she said ¨You must have a lot of time in the mission then, huh?¨ Hermana Goates just put her hand on my arm and smiled. ¨17 ish months...¨I told her. Their eyes all got really big and they gasped ¨Wait! So you´re going home???¨
The whole table got really quiet and attentive all of the sudden as they just started in with questions.
I was laughing as I was sort of flashed back to being brand new and just wanting the older missionaries to share their wisdom with me. and then realizing just how quickly the tables have turned... 
So we talked a little bit about LOVE, patience with the language, confidence in the calling, and the importance of the atonement... when Elder Viñas came, he talked about how the greatest ¨tool¨and source of strength and peace we have is the atonement of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
for my part in our Zone Conference this week, The zone leaders asked me to talk more about that... How the atonement has affected me personally, and how it can help us, motivate us, and strengthen us in missionary work.

I immediately thought of the talk by Elder Holland.
¨Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.
For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.¨
The hermanas started to share with me some of the things they´ve had to go through already in the mission, the trials. ¨Does it get easier??¨ They kept asking me... I explained to them that in some aspects, yes, things will change... not always, trials don´t stop coming. I assured them that it´s okay to sometimes miss your family, to struggle with the language, to feel like you´re ¨in over your head¨. That´s normal. But I told them to use it as a motivation to come unto Christ and to pull from His strength.
Elder Holland gives us a promise at the end of his talk: ¨I promise that because of your faithful response to the call to spread the gospel, He will bind up your broken hearts, dry your tears, and set you and your families free. That is my missionary promise to you and your missionary message to the world.¨
I know that is true. I´ve seen it in action throughout my mission. The Lord is SO GOOD to those who respond to the call to serve His children, and the blessings that come to missionaries and their families are wonderful and undeniable. 
When we come to know Christ, and truly comprehend all that He has done for each of us... the LOVE he has for us... there is a natural desire to share that happiness (and the gospel) with those around us. I´ve seen it So many times that as we allow that ¨perfect love¨ to penetrate our hearts and work in our lives, it motivates and empowers us beyond our own capacities. ¨Casting out¨ fear, and working miracles along the way.
It´s hard to put into words the things that I wish I could share with these ¨new¨missionaries, and well, with everyone. It´s been a little hard to swallow the reality that my time to ¨speak having authority from God¨ is quickly coming to a close... But I´ve also realized something else... My ¨part¨ in the Lord´s work doesn´t end here... Sure, it will be a different type of work.. But I know now that I will be a ¨misionera¨ for the rest of my life. In every phase of our lives, each and every one of us is so important in this, the work of salvation. 
We can all speak with boldness, motivated by the love that our Savior has shown to each and every one of us. With the assurance that God loves us and desires our happiness. When we understand that love, and strive to develop a similar love for those around us, we can overcome barriers, take heart that our efforts are never wasted, and we can rejoice in the calling that we have all been given to ¨spread the good news¨to all those who are willing to listen!
I love you all! 
Have a fantastic week! 
Talk to you soon! 
xoxox Your Hermana C

Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday September 1, 2014 - Feels like jello

Yeah it is... we´re winding down fast!
1. I feel like Jello... the other day I told E. Reynolds (who´s going
home with me) I feel like my brain is spaghetti, my body is like
jello, and we´re all just chilling at the top of the sky coaster
waiting to pull the cord... The result is a dizzying jolt of reality,
wondering how in the world I got this far... mixed with the excitement
and anticipation of the fall and not quite knowing what to expect of
the swoop on the other side...

Monday September 1, 2014 - Miracles Happen... when you BELIEVE!!!‏

The days feel like weeks, the weeks feel like months... the months feel like days... then suddenly... It´s September!!
Time is FLYING!
 This was another one of those weeks that went by in a blur.
We saw some major miracles this week:
*Federico (21-22). One day, knocking doors because everything fell through, we knocked a bunch, and nada.... after several hours, we knocked one more, and out came Fede. He told us that he´s been Catholic his whole life, but always wanted something more... he went this last summer with a bunch of other youth as a missionary for the Catholic church.. and loved it... We started talking to him about what we do... He invited us in, and we taught him the restauración. He LOVED the apostasy..´It makes so much sense!¨ and he loved Joseph Smith´s experience. We committed him to read and pray, and he said he´d do it. We saw him a few days later and he´d read and loved it! We have a cita with him later this week. He´s golden!
*Marcos (24) . We did a tormenta blanca this week in Tunuyán to help the hermanas in their area. They split their area into parts for all of the companionships, and Hermana Vargas and I got the terminal and all of the HUGE houses surrounding it. You can´t even go up to the doors because they all just have gates with the little speaker thing. I HATE THOSE!! So needless to say, we spent quite some time just talking into the speakers, and never hearing a response. We decided to walk further until we found some ¨more humble looking houses¨... as we walked down street after street of mansions, we came around a corner, and I saw this cute little white house, as I said ¨Here!¨Hermana Vargas looked at me and pointed. There we found Marcos. A young fireman, who after explaining who we were, invited us in, he ¨needed to hear our message¨. We taught him the Restauración and he explained how this was what he needed, and his girlfriend and family as well. He invited us to come back and teach them.
*Maxi. after 3 weeks of not being able to go see him... things just kept coming up... Angel and juani came to church yesterday because they thought something bad had happened to us. haha. But we went last night to visit all of them.... In all the months that I´ve been here, I have never felt so much happiness, peace, and just a visible tangible change in that house. Everyone was there, we had and AMAZING lesson about the gospel of Christ. Helped (with a little bit of firmness) Maxi understand that he needs to put in his efforts if he wants to be baptized. He accepted a new fecha for 20 septiembre!! Later, they told us that the changes in their family is because they have been reading and praying as a family!!! The Lord is working MIRACLES!!!
We´ve been finding so many jóvenes! Seriously the youth of today are incredible!! (ja, I say that like I´m old or something!) But really I´ve seen how it´s true that the youth are the most ¨attacked¨... but honestly they are a chosen generation. I learn so much from them. They are so valiant and prepared!
*Probably the greatest miracle of all came last night. After our leadership meeting, we left and went to go work in our area... about 35 minutes later, Presidente Chacón called us to tell us that there were two young men in the chapel, waiting for missionaries... they´re from the elders area, but they weren´t answering their phone. So hermana Vargas and I tried and tried to call the elders.. nothing.. and so we went to the church. When we arrived, we saw the first counselor talking to two of the roughest looking teenage boys I´ve seen in a long time. Covered in piercings, tattoos, long hair, rugged clothes. We walked in, and he introduced us, and told us that he´d already showed them the chapel, and each of them had a Liahona in hand. capo. So we started talking to them, getting to know who they were and where they´d come from...
Then the story got even more interesting. The two of them were walking along the ruta.. they needed to get somewhere, so they hitchhiked... a lady brought them from where they live out in the campo... and as they got out, they thanked her, and she just said ¨Well, I just have one favor....Go to the church!¨ They told her they would... and feeling like they should follow through, they walked until they found a church... it wasn´t ours, but they said they felt like they were in the wrong place, and decided to keep looking. So they walked and got to our chapel. They walked in, and that´s when they met the branch presidency.
They´ve never talked to missionaries or members before... Their families are Catholic, but they´ve never personally prayed or tried to have a relationship with God. They were a little timid at first, and openly surprised that two ¨chicas¨from far away places were there to now teach them about Jeus. But we got them to open up, got to know them and then we said a prayer.We taught them the Restoration, talked about baptism, Christ´s example, the opportunity that we have to be free from sin. As they sat there, visibly touched by what we´d shared, soaking it all in. I felt like I should ask them if they would be baptized. As I extended the invitation, they both looked up at me from the floor, and with a whole new excitement, told me that Yes, they would follow Christ´s example and be baptized. That it´s exactly what they need in their lives.

The spirit was incredible, the lesson went So well, and these two unexpecting boys recieved answers to some questions that they hadn´t even really realized they´d had. We took down their information for the elders, said a prayer with them, and they left smiling and thanking us for sharing with them. hermana Vargas and I just looked at each other smiling from ear to ear, it was an unexpected miracle! 
The miracle with Darío y Jonathan, I seriously was so humbled as we left the church. Thinking about how well and personally the Lord knows those two ¨pibes¨ and prepared a way for them last night. It made me feel so grateful and I realized how SMALL my part is compared to the greatness of the Lord and His designs.
These past two transfers were honestly the most trying time of my mission as a whole... it was like the dark night that just didn´t seem to really have an end. We hit the lowest of lows. But now, we are starting to see MAJOR blessings as a result of diligence and lots of prayers. With investigators, lots of teaching opportunities, and we´ve also seen a LOT of growth in the rama. In 2 weeks, they are going to combine the branch with Tupongato, so we´ve been focusing a lot these last few weeks on ¨Unity activities¨ and we´ve had 2 awesomely successful Noche de Hogar, Karaoke, and seen a huge increase in ánimo for the obra misional! the changes are coming!
I was reading yesterday in Jesus the Christ, when Christ is instructing the Phariseos and also his disciples once again by parables.
He ¨admonished them to diligence¨ in all of their endeavors, but impressed ¨the absolute necesity of unselfish devotion, toleration, and forgiveness.
The apostles, realizing the whole-souled service required of them, implored the Lord, saying: ¨Increase our faith.¨ They were shown that faith was less fitly reckoned in terms of quantity than by test of QUALITY¨... and then he told them again of the analogy of the mustard seed.

Lately I have to admit that I´ve been completely exhausted. After being so sick, my energy levels have still just been a little less than desirable, and sometimes I get frustrated that I don´t quite feel ¨up to par¨...
We´ve worked SO hard these last few weeks, and seen SO many results that the exhaustion is ¨the good kind¨... but there are still days when I feel a little bit incapaz, overwhelmed, and I realize that I, alone, don´t have the strength to do it all. Like I too need to ask ¨Increase my faith!¨
The other day, we didn´t have meetings, all of our appointments fell through, and so that made for a LONG day of knocking and walking. After several hours in the hot sun, the STRONG zonda wind, and sand blasting us in the face, it was almost as if my body just said ¨Nope. that´s enough...¨I kind of just melted into the closest curb for a minute.
As I sat there, feeling pathetic, I said a prayer. ¨I´m sorry I´m so weak... Help me to be able to just work, make me stronger.¨
I realized that I´d been praying for that same thing for a while now... maybe I needed to change what I was asking for. I realized that I was still trying to ¨do it all on my own¨... that what really mattered wasn´t ME being able to do everything myself, but trusting that the Lord can do all things, and instead of asking him to ¨Increase my faith¨, or MY personal strength, I needed to ask Him to DEEPEN my faith and trust in Him more to help me to do what He needs me to do.
After the analogy of the mustard seed, the Lord tells the apostles that ¨Their faith could best be gaged by obedience and untiring service¨. Then he tells them the parable of the Unprofitable Servant.
Talmage says: ¨The servant might well feel that after a day´s work in the firld he is entitled to rest; but on reaching the home he finds other demands made upon him. The master has a right to the servant´s time and attention; such was among the conditions under which the servant had been engaged; and while his employer might thank him or give some substantial reward, the servant cannot demand such recompense.¨

I often say ¨I´ll sleep when I´m dead!¨ for now, my time is short, and honestly, if you´re not giving your ALL to this work, well, you won´t see any results.
In another instance, to show his sometimes doubtful disciples just what awaited them if they continued faithfullly, the Lord told them: ¨everyone that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name´s sake, shall recieve an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.¨
I have seen that over and over again on my mission. The things I´ve seen, learned, people I´ve met, there is no way to explain the ¨reward¨of this work. Just like in the example of how we are always unprofitable servants, I don´t ¨call the shots¨, or establish the ¨when¨or ¨how¨those blessings will come... in fact, more often than not, they´re very different than I think, unexpected, unplanned. But the promise is real if we´re faithful and diligent, the Lord blesses us in remarkable ways. Always in His way and in His timing. Reminding me salways that He is in charge, this is HIS work, and in the end I´m always the one that comes away indebted... heart and hands full of blessings and gratitude for how VERY GOOD the Lord has been to me.

I hope that you all have a great week! I love you!!
xoxox Your Hermana C