Monday, March 25, 2013

Current Address

For a package or a snail mail letter send it currently to

Hermana Emily Christensen
705 Kings Way # 1123
Del Rio, Texas 78840

Otherwise she has to wait until her next zone meeting or transfer to get it

A Very Long Letter From Del Rio 3/25

Querida Familia,


I just love you all so much. It was so great to be able to talk to you (Mom and Dad) in the airport, and to hear your voices for a little bit. First, I think I'll relate to you what has happened since that point, and then I'll respond to the emails I've gotten from you.


First, we had a relatively uneventful flight to San Antonio. All 31 of us missionaries were on a tiny, 76 person airplane, and we had so much more baggage than usual that they couldn't fit it all and had to send it on with the next flight. I sat next to a member of the church and across the aisle from a gentleman whom I talked to briefly, but I didn't have a super quality conversation with him about the gospel. I'll talk more about my dread of contacting later, but just know for now that this is the part of missionary work that I am least prepared to do, and have always been the most apprehensive about.


President Jones and his wife, the APs and one of the Senior couples from the office met us there and took us back to the mission home where we were fed and interviewed by President Jones. It was more of a chat than an interview. He told me some of the things that had been said about me in my application, including a description of me as being athletic. That was news to me. I'm not a wimp  by any means, and I would probably describe myself as being athletic, but I don't think even I would flatter myself enough to think of myself as being truly athletic. So, whoever said that about me, thank you for the compliment. :)  Afterward, they took us down to the Alamo where we were read a story about its history and "crossed the line" to join the ranks of the servants of the Lord. Usually, they have all of the new missionaries place a Book of Mormon on their first day, but because our flight was delayed, we didn't have enough time. Honestly, I'm kind of grateful they didn't make us do it. Maybe I just don't have the true spirit of a missionary yet, but there were SOOO many of us compared to the other number of people there, and I think it would have been an uncomfortable power struggle issue trying to encourage people to take a religious book. I think it would have been too easy to have the wrong spirit there. And maybe I'm wrong, and maybe I'm just glad that I had one more day to procrastinate my fear of contacting, but that's how I felt about it.


That night, we stayed with the L- Family, and as you've already found out, we discovered that we know some people in common, which was kind of fun. I wish I had thought of mentioning the N's name, because I love them dearly and that would have been so fun to make that connection. We did talk about the Fs and the Ss and the Bs (only good things of course) and that was a great small world moment. The bed I slept on that night was probably the most comfortable bed I've slept on in my life. I don't know if it actually was as comfortable as I thought, or if it was just the foil of having been in the MTC for 6 weeks and and sleeping terribly, or if it was just a tender mercy from Heavenly Father that I was able to zonk out solid, but it felt great.


Thursday morning . . . Transfer Meeting!! We met at the stake center (it has the exact same lay out as our stake center, but I think ours looks a lot nicer on the inside) and had breakfast. President gave us our assignments before announcing them in transfer meeting, so we had a leg up on our trainers as to who we would be with and where we would be going. My assignment . . . Del Rio, Texas, serving with Herman B-! Del Rio is about five miles off the border with Texas. I haven't seen the border yet, but I will before I leave. We work with two branches, the Del Rio 1st branch which is English, and the Del Rio 3rd branch which is Spanish. Most of the English members either live on the Air Force base or work for border patrol. Most of the Spanish members are from Mexico, but I couldn't say how many of them are here legally and how many are not. We actually have a few that commute from Mexico. It's an interesting mix. I get told a lot that my Spanish is really good, but I feel so lost. My vocabulary is extremely limited, so while I understand everything that my companion is saying and I feel confident expressing myself in the realm of the things that I can say, I have a really hard time following conversations because there are so many new words and the accent is different so I can't even pick them out clearly. It's just going to come down to practice though. The nice thing (and the thing that's going to make it hard to get really good) is that most people speak Spanglish. If you don't know a word, usually you can say it in English and the members or your investigator will help you figure it out in Spanish. 


Hermana B- is great! She's been in Del Rio for four or five transfers already (about six months) and she knows everyone. Every house we pass, she tells me who lives there, what their member status is, and the story of their life or how she met them. It's a little bit overwhelming sometimes to realize how much I have to learn, but I'm so glad that she's hear and I don't have to figure it all out from scratch. Hermana B- is a great teacher. She is especially good at teaching children and explaining things in a way that they can understand and will keep them engaged in the lessons. I have a lot that I can learn from her in this regard. The best thing about her though, is that she LOVES contacting, and she's super good at it. She can meet someone, ask them a few questions and immediately turn the conversation into a discussion of the gospel. My goal in the next six weeks is to learn from her how to do that, because it is my biggest area of weakness. I actually had a cool experience with this the other day. Friday morning, our first full day in Del Rio, I knew that we would be contacting a little bit, and I was terrified. I knew that I needed help especially if I'm going to learn how to love this in six weeks, so I said a prayer. I had decided to make a deal with Heavenly Father that I would give up snacking after 9 when we get back to the apartment (one of my big comfort things, but a very bad and sometimes distracting habit) if he would help me learn how to love missionary work in the field, especially contacting. While I was saying that prayer, I had this immediate sensation of peace, and even though it was hard for me to contact well when we were knocking doors, I wasn't terrified, and I haven't been terrified since then. Any time I am teaching, any time I am sharing my testimony in Spanish or English, I feel confident in what I am sharing. I also recognize that there are a lot of things I need to learn about how to teach and how to share more effectively, but at least the last few days, I haven't felt terrified, and that is a huge blessing for me.


Just a few answers to questions that I can imagine people asking. Bikes or cars? Both. We have a car that we "share" with the elders in our district, but most of the time, we have it. However, our mileage is limited, so when we can, we bike. That begs the next question. Is it hot? YES!! when we left San Antonio, it was about 65 degrees. When we got to Del Rio, it was in the 80s. The next day, and they day that we were biking, it was in the 90s. Yesterday and today, it has been weirdly cold again, but that's not going to last. It's a nice reprieve for the moment, but the heat is going to pick right back up again. If I can majorly improve the quality of my Spanish, people are going to think that I'm a native in a few months, at least from the sleeve line down.


Better question. Who are we teaching? Answer . . . I'm not exactly sure yet. Hermana B- had quite a few investigators on the books when I got here, and right now, I'm in the process of learning who they all are. My first real lesson was with the G- family, who are members, but struggling with church attendance. That's the biggest problem we have here in Del Rio is church attendance. Anyway, our goal with them was to recommit them to coming to church. The way the lesson went, we didn't have to. They did it themselves. We taught them about the Liahona and how it guides us when we are being diligent and keeping the commandments. Then we asked them what things they think they could do to strengthen their family and be better at keeping the commandments, and without hesitation they said 'we need to come to church.' They made a goal as a family that they would come every week, which is so much more powerful when it is something that comes from them, and not from us. That was cool.   


We're also working hard to fellowship a woman named N-, who is from the Philippines, and her family. They're in the middle of trying to move to a different house, so we went over on Saturday and helped her pack boxes. She told us about her life story and her family and how she met her husband, and made us these amazing chicken lettuce wraps. It was great. But then, yesterday at church, we got some interesting news from her friend that is a member. Apparently, she's not actually married to the guy I was positive was her husband, and they are separating in May. So right now, they're moving to a new house together, but they're planning to separate in May, and she's expecting in November. We're a little bit confused as to what is going on, but regardless of what the truth is, she really needs the gospel, and she still doesn't see it, so that's what we're working on.


Another weird divorce situation. We went to visit a man named C- who Hermana B- said they had had a really great lesson with, and who she felt really good about as investigators. We knocked on the door during our schedule time, and he wasn't there, so we went next door to teach O-r (more on that later), and then stopped back about an hour later. He was just getting home from the grocery store, and after a few minutes of how do you do, he told us that he's getting divorced. According to him, his wife has gotten involved in some psychic, voodoo stuff and is accusing him of having an affair with her sister. He said that her parents are on his side, but that the sister is standing by his wife. It was really weird, and some of the stuff he told us about is pretty creepy. So we're in the middle of figuring out what of all of this mess is truth and fiction and if there's anything we can do to help, and if so, what it is. Obviously, we don't want to put ourselves in a bad situation, and we're limited as to what we can actually do. So that's kind of devastating, but there you have it.


O-: Apparently, his wife is the one who is really interested in the Book of Mormon, but she wasn't home, so we just taught O- with Sister U- who came with us. This lesson didn't go super well. O- is "Catholic to the bone" and even though he has doubts about some things, he staunchly defends his heritage. He is convinced that the Book of Mormon is the story of Joseph Smith, and he won't read it. The lesson turned into more of a debate, and it was all in Spanish, so it was hard for me to understand. On top of which, I was super tired, and even though I was consciously doing things to stay engaged, I battled sleep the whole times. There were a couple of moments when I was two seconds from dream land, but I either forced my eyes back open, or Hermana B- helped me out with a gentle nudge. I really think that if we have any chance of winning O- we have to teach him when his wife is there. 


Oh R-! Actually, I made a mistake. Our first lesson was with R-. She's also very Catholic, but is keeping her reading commitments, because she has always been a seeker of truth, and does want to know. The problem with R- is that she is afraid to change. She told us that she feels nervous reading the Book of Mormon, and I know it's just because she has felt the Spirit and is afraid of what she will have to do when she can't deny that it is true. She's been a member of the same church for over 20 years and is highly involved. It would be really hard for her to have to leave and tell everyone that she had changed her beliefs. 


Probably "the best" or "most successful" missionary moment of the week was teaching M- and her two girls J- (10) and A- (7). M- is 28 and really wonderful. She has a baptismal date set for April 13th (after Easter and Conference) and is preparing diligently for that date. However, when Hermana B-extended that invitation to her, J- wasn't home. Yesterday, we had the opportunity of teaching them again, and Hermana B- gave me my first opportunity to extend a baptismal invitation to J-who accepted. She and her mom are getting baptized in three weeks and A- is bummed that she can't participate until June, which is exactly how we want it.  :)  J- described feeling the Spirit as "it's like there's something crazy jumping around inside me."


Last night, we also had a visit with the C- Family. They've had three different baptismal dates, but the mom's work takes her out of town and all over the place on weekends, so they haven't been coming to church, and hence, haven't been able to get baptized. We didn't know what to do with them last night, and we arrived, things were a little bit chaotic, so we sat down and watched The Testaments together, and actually, I think it was exactly what they needed. Hermana B- helped them understand what was going on throughout the story and helped apply the things we were seeing to our own day, and I think at least for E- (the dad), that experience solidified the validity of the Book of Mormon. I don't remember exactly what he said, but at the beginning, he mentioned something about how "yeah, the Bible happens in Jerusalem, but there were other people in other parts of the world too," basically meaning that it makes sense that there would be other books of scripture. So that was pretty exciting.


I think that's most of my news. It'll probably take a week or two of writing to figure out what's really the most important to share, but hopefully, I'll master the art sooner, rather than letter.


That being said, thank you for your emails!! I don't know any of the sisters you have named that are in your ward, but if you see Elder G- again (he was in the Spanish branch) tell him that I met his MTC companion at transfer meetings. I can't remember his name though. Anyway, he says hi. Small world again. Glad to hear that everyone's music performances and sports events are going well, and that LGPE was successful. Alan is driving!! No way! Congrats buddy! I somehow read right over the sentence in Mom's letter that said he had passed and I was reading the part about Sunday when everyone got home without the parents and made pancakes and cleaned up (props to you all), and I thought 'what? how did that happen?" So I went back and read, and sure enough, my little brother is a driver!! When y'all find a car you like, let me know about it.  


I thought it was cool that y'all got to take ward names through the temple. Yesterday, we sat down with our branch family history specialist to learn how to do family history so that we can help one of our recent converts get names ready for the temple. They have a new site now called Family Tree that is so much easier to use than the old one. I feel much less intimidated to get started on my own family work when when I get back. 


Dad, thank you for your thought from Isaiah. I always love your thoughts because they're always right on what I need. The last couple days I have been battling sleepiness like nobody's business, and I might just write that scripture on a sticky note above my desk to remind me. I feel like my experience 27 paragraphs above about praying for help really applies to this. It has been so comforting to know that while I have so much I need to learn, and I am so far from perfect, I have help every moment of every day from Heavenly Father. I've really felt that this week, and it has been such a blessing. I've also been really blessed so far in my companions. That was one of my biggest worries before I left, but like Mom told me, he knows my needs and he knows my desires, and I have been so blessed to receive the companions that I need that have been able to help me fulfill my desires. 


I go to bed bone tired every day, but I'm doing great, and while I'm not yet as enthusiastic as the missionaries who are going home soon and are dreading it because they don't want to leave, I do love being here and I love serving the people here, and I trust that in time, I will feel that way too, because that's what I want my mission experience to be. I just have to learn how to make it that way, which will take a little bit of time.


I love this gospel. I love being able to immerse myself in it every day, and I know that as we continue to study and apply the little things, we will have the help and the guidance that we need and desire to help us get through what lies ahead of us. I pray for you all every day, especially for Mom to be able to find balance and to be able to know how to help the people that she serves. It's a weighty burden to shoulder, but I know you can do it. 


Les amo mucho!


Hermana Christensen


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fw: Greetings from San Antonio!

Subject: Greetings from San Antonio!

Dear Missionary Families,
We are happy to inform you that your son or daughter has safely arrived in the Texas San Antonio Mission! President Jones and I and our assistants greeted them at the airport at about 2:50 this afternoon. The plane from Salt Lake City was delayed, so we were anxiously awaiting their arrival. They arrived with smiles on their faces, happy to be here. What a great group of missionaries!  This was our biggest group ever with 31 missionaries, 18 being Sisters!
After collecting their luggage, we made our way back to the mission home where we had lunch, individual interviews with President Jones and some orientation. Then they were off to the Alamo where they learned a little history and participated in some mission traditions. We welcomed them back to the mission home for dinner, and time spent getting to know one another. The Sisters then left for various members homes and the Elders left for the assistants apartment for their first night in the mission field.
Tomorrow morning we will have an orientation and transfer meeting where your sons and daughters will meet their new companions and head out to their first areas. You should expect an email from them on Monday which is their preparation day. We are so happy and excited to have the opportunity to serve with these fine young men and women. Thank you for sending such well prepared and wonderful missionaries!
President and Sister Jones

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Direct Emails Are Now Allowed!

So Emily is in San Antonio as of this afternoon. She called us at home from the Salt Lake airport before boarding her flight for a final "goodbye". The big news she wanted me to share is that the direct email policy for missionaries has changed. She is allowed to email family as well as friends and converts now, so per her request I'm posting her missionary email address so you can all write her, and she can email you back!

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Pics 3/14/13

1.Having a hard day
2.The District
3.Las Hermanas
4.Silly Hermanas

March 14

Hola Familia!

The biggest item of news in my life this week is on Sunday, I got called as coordinating sister for our zone. The assignment came as a surprise, because we were only going to be here for one more week. Elders Wo., We.and M. are zone leaders for a week, and as coordinating sister, I'm basically the liason between them and the Hermanas. Every night, I get to go visit all of the girls in their rooms and check up on how they are doing. If they have questions, they ask me, and it's weird to realize that they see me the way I saw our first coordinating sister, as a super mature, highly seasoned sister missionary. I definitely don't feel it. I also have responsabilities in connection with our new district. This week, we got another district of 6 elders and 6 hermanas. Last night with the Zone Leaders, I got to welcome them to the zone, explain how things work in the MTC and introduce them to their schedule for the day. One of the hermanas inspired the title for my email this week when she sincerely asked me, "So have you already served your mission?" Haha. Not really. Although, I was thinking about where I have come from where I was on the first day, and I can definitely say that if I came home right now, I would be a very changed person. It's amazing what can happen in six weeks when you're working hard. Tonight, we get to do some training with the new district and take them on a tour of campus, which I'm excited for.

The other big news item for our district this week is a little less lighthearted. I guess it was Thursday night that we had an Elder go home (which is why we have a trio of zone leaders). The Elders were aware of what was going on several days in advance which is why they had been acting so weird, but us hermanas had no idea what was going on until five red, wet faces walked into our room as class was supposed to start. We thought maybe somebody had died. It was really sad for us to lose our Elder, but at the same time, it was a joyful thing because this Elder is choosing to repent. We know that he came to the MTC for the right reasons, and likewise he is leaving for the right reasons, and we have every confidence that he will be back when he is ready. While he was here, he set an example for us of loving other people, and because of his testimony of the Savior. I'm really glad that I had the opportunity to know him. However, I want to say a word to all the young men out there. First, you ALL NEED TO GO ON MISSIONS!!! Don't even question that decision. If there is anything in your life that you need to straighten out so that you can go, DO IT NOW. Do whatever it takes so that when the time comes you can be prepared and worthy to serve. Choosing to repent will be the best decision you've ever made, and coming on a mission will be the best preparation for every part of your future that you can imagine. I'll be the first to say that repentance is hard, but it is so worth it. Changing to become like the Savior is why we are here. Don't let Satan trick you into thinking that repentance is a burden, because it is beautiful. Soapbox over. At least for now.

One of our investigators committed to baptism this week! That was cool. I also made a really big mistake with our other investigator, which just kills me, but it's OK. Antonio is our investigator who has pretty much had all the discussions before, but has had some major doubts about the church. We've been working with him to overcome those doubts, and it's been a long, slow process, but a good experience all things considered. Last Saturday, we had prepared a lesson for Antonio that we felt good about, but we had prepared it assuming that his commitment probably wouldn't have taken him as far is it had the potential to, because that has kind of been our experience with Antonio. In short, we weren't expecting the best of him. About two minutes into our lesson again, Antonio said something and I felt that he had progressed a lot farther than we had expected. I had the prompting then that we should alter our plan a little bit and jump ahead to the assignment we were planning on leaving him that night. However, I didn't explain my feelings to my companion and she moved on with our plan. I kind of tried to steer in the direction I thought we needed to go, but that's hard to do when you're not unified as a companionship. So then, Antonio described to us the feeling he had had while he was reading the scriptures, and it was a distinct description of the Spirit. We didn't think that would have happened, and our plan was to invite him to continue reading that night and pray to receive an answer. I recognized that in what he had said, he had already received his answer that the Book of Mormon is true. But I failed to tell him that. I let Hna. L. continue with what he had planned, and for the first time ever, our teacher paused our role play to explain the mistake we had made. By not explaining to Antonio what it was he had felt, and by asking him to ask again, we would have taught him to look beyond the mark, to look for a grand exhibition of the Spirit in order to receive an answer, and that would have been detrimental in real life. I felt so devastated because I knew what he was going to say before he said it. I had failed to follow the promptings of the Spirit, and in doing so, I felt like I had failed my investigator. I was really very disappointed in myself, but in the end, I'm really glad that this happened now, because I know what I did wrong, and next time I'm in a similar situation, I know what I will do differently. So to recap, I learned two lessons. First, expect the best of your investigators, or in other words, have Faith. Maybe they won't keep their commitments, but if they do, you have to have faith that the gospel is true, the Spirit is real, and that they will work the powerful effects I know that they can have. Second, when the Spirit prompts, obey. If we fail to follow the Spirit when it comes, eventually, it will stop coming.

I have some more pictures for you guys this week. First, Hna. L and I were having a rough day. Second, our Elders. Third, our district. Fourth, The Hermanas. Fifth, the Hermanas being silly.

I love you all! I can't wait to talk to you on Wednesday. My next letter will be from San Antonio!! I can hardly believe it. Have a great one!!

Hermana Em

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Highlights 3/7/13

Dear Family,

I can hardly believe it's already been a month since I got here. We'll likely be getting travel plans before the weekend is over, so I'll let you know what those are when I have more info.

Fun moment of the week! I bumped into Brother Jett from the Sandy Plains ward at the breakfast bar this week. He and Sister Jett, who I also got to say hi to, are on their way to Chile. Also, I got a Dear Elder from Dylan. He got his mission call to Kenya!! Also, Nokuthula is going to Zimbabwe, Yondela (who I am SO glad decided to go on a mission!!) is going to the new Ghana mission and Avela, another guy in our ward, is going to Ghana, Accra, which is where Hyrum is. I was SOOO excited to hear their news. It's so great to me how much enthusiasm they all have for the gospel. So exciting!!

This week was probably the hardest week of the mission so far. Hna. L. had a couple of hard days right at the beginning of the week, and now it's my turn. Honestly, being a missionary is exhausting. It's mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausting to the point of becoming physical. The last couple of days, I have gone to bed and woken up feeling like I didn't sleep at all. Never in my life have I so consistently gotten 8 hours of sleep, and never in my life have I been so utterly wiped out. Yesterday, our teacher asked us to work on weekly planning for 40 minutes, and I immediately got a stomach ache, my eyes felt like they had turned into lead, and I couldn't think any more because I knew the mental toll that was about to be taken. It just wears you out, and it's hard to find ways to refill the bucket. Today at the temple, I was so tired during the session and even though I fought it and fought it and fought it, I would think I was doing a great job, and then all of a sudden I would wake up. My heart was pounding, and I've been a little bit shaky all day. I feel like I can't speak Spanish very well, because now that I've learned how many rules I didn't know, I get into lessons and I can't figure out how I'm supposed to say what I need to say. Is this really preterit, or should it be subjunctive? For that matter, maybe it should be conditional, with past subjunctive? And is that verb regular or does it have a stem change??!?!?  Honestly, it's terrible, but I also feel like it's a blessing. The last few weeks, I have been praying to learn humility and patience, and I think this is a golden opportunity to do both. Heavenly Father expects us to give our best, but I'm sure he can't want us to feel miserable for the next 18 months. In order to make it through this, I HAVE to rely on him to help me figure out what it is that he wants me to be doing. It's so interesting how a few weeks ago, I felt like I wasn't giving enough, and now I feel like I'm almost wasted. Mom, I've been thinking a lot about you and your calling and what you said about not running faster than you have strength. Yeah, that's totally true. If you kill yourself running out the gate, you're not going to be able to finish the race. I've just got to figure out where the balance is.

That being said, we had a really great devotional this week with the Provo Temple president, and he talked a lot about the ordinances in the temple. In particular, I loved what he said about the initiatory, and this week, it has been really comforting thinking about the blessings we are promised there, and how they can help me as a missionary. I don't want you all to think that I'm hating my life and wanting to come home, because that's not the case. In fact, I believe more strongly than ever that every girl should come on a mission. This is the best spiritual workout you will ever have in your life. It will change who you are and what your future will be. I'm just feeling the soreness after the exercise. I know I'll get through it. I'm just really tired today. Actually, I had a really great experience last night that reminded me that Heavenly Father is mindful of my situation. We were walking back from dinner and I was feeling especially tired, when all of a sudden I saw S. Pister, one of my Campus Plaza friends. He was there to volunteer for the Russian misisonaries in the TRC. S. Pister is the most comforting, upbeat person in the world. Totally genuine, and very practical while still being 175% positive. The missionaries were a few minutes late, so I got to talk to him for a bit, and it totally turned my night around. Just a small tender mercy that made a difference to me.

Actually, I want to say something else that relates to deciding to come on a mission, and I hope all of the young women in our ward hear this. Hna. L and I were having a hard time planning a lesson for one of our investigators. We felt like we weren't getting any direction at all after spending all day Sunday thinking about it, and our appointment was scheduled for early Monday morning. Sunday night,we watched a devotional by Elder Bednar about recognizing the spirit. He planned his remarks in response to this question "Elder Bednar, how do I know if I'm feeling the spirit, or if it's just me?" And his response was this. "Quit Worrying About It!!!!! You be a good boy, you be a good girl, you remember and keep your covenants, you obey the commandments, press forward with faith, and you will be guided." So many times as members of the church, we fall into the trap of thinking we have to have an answer before we move forward. That is not true. If you have righteous desires, and you are living faithfully, Heavenly Father will take care of you. I never got "an answer" to go on a mission. I just made a decision and pressed forward. I would encourage every young woman who is considering a mission to do the same. If you have a desire to serve, you are called to the work. Even though you may pray and pray and pray for six months like I did, "the answer" may never come. Just make a decision, press forward, and Heavenly Father will guide you. I can testify that this is a true principle. After deciding on a course of action as a companionship, we moved forward with our lesson, and it was one of the best ones we have ever had. My choice to come on a mission was the best decision of my life. I STRONGLY encourage every girl who has the opportunity to do the same. You will not regret it, and you can bet that it is a decision that Heavenly Father will 100% approve.

I could keep emailing all day, but there are tons of missionaries in line, and that wouldn't be fair. I know the Book of Mormon is true. If you're thinking about a mission, STUDY it, every day. Testimonies come as you bear them, Heavenly Father loves us and is mindful of each one of us. I love you all, I love hearing from you every week. Keep up the good work!!

Hna. Em

PS Mom, I know how you feel when everybody calls for "MOM!" Now that my name is "Hermana," my head doesn't stop turning.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Las Hermanas

Laundry Time at the MTC


Dearest Family,

I have a really wonderful problem. I have gotten so many letters the last few weeks, I have had a hard time getting them all answered. So, I'm working on individual responses to mis hermanos and also to all of my wonderful friends who have written me. I'm closing the gap, and seeing as I still have 4 hours left of P-Day, I'm hoping I'll be able to get a lot done today as well. So, that being said, be looking for letters, but I want to say CONGRATULATIONS ALAN FOR GETTING INTO BYU!!!!! I was so excited to get that news. And also congrats on your great musical weekend. Congrats to Cousins Matthew and Becca, can't wait to see them in Provo, and to Hunter for his mission call. I can't believe that my contemporaries are all getting back from their missions. Roommate Lisa wrote me and said our first FHE brother is back and she got to talk to him briefly on the phone. Ethan and Jarrett are almost back, and I just can't believe it. Time flies. Actually, in the MTC, we have a strange time warp phenomenon. Every day seems like a million years. When I'm writing in my journal at night and I think back to the morning, I always have to ask Hna. L was that this morning?' Without fail. But at the same time, I feel like I've had P-Day two days in a row. The days are long, but the weeks are fast. The weeks are long, but the months are fast. This is all going to be over before I know it. We passed our half way point in el CCM this week, and Texas is looking bigger and bigger.

This week, I learned the importance of relying on the Spirit both during lessons and during planning. We have two investigators right now, Felipe and Antonio. At the beginning of the week, we had a lesson with Felipe that did not go very well for various reasons, and we knew we had to do better in our next one. The next day, we had a lesson with Antonio that was an absolute disaster. Let me tell you about Antonio. He's a grandpa whose family all got baptized, but he did not. He had some bad experience with missionaries and with members and had decided not to talk to them anymore or go to church. However, after we "chopped some wood for him" he invited us over not to talk about the gospel, but so he could say thank you. The objective of our first visit was to merit a return invitation, which we did. However, when we left, we thought about his problems and decided that what he needed was to learn about forgiveness and be prepared to forgive the people who had wronged him so he could get over his pride and returned to church. So, we prepared a lesson about forgiveness for lesson two. About two minutes into our second lesson, we realized we had made a dreadful mistake. We didn't fully understand his problem, and forgiveness was not the thing to talk about. We tried to change tack and follow the spirit, but we did an abysmal job and ended up flinging all kind of stuff at him that only made the situation worse. It was a disaster. Our intentions were good, but we hadn't done the necessary ground work to support those good intentions. We were kind of devastated and absolutely at a loss as to what we should do. All weekend, we prayed about it and talked about it and then carefully and prayerfully planned a lesson for Antonio. We decided to walk in, ask him to explain to us his concerns about the church, and then to ask him why it was that he had chosen to invite us back after our first visit. In class, we had learned about using the introduction of the Book of Mormon to teach investigators, and we somehow felt that if we had time, we should teach that to him as well. So this is what happened. We walked in. Said a prayer. Antonio told us all of his questions about the church, which mostly center on the Book of Mormon and the Word of Wisdom (coffee). Up to this point, I didn't feel anything special about our lesson, but the Hna. L. asked him, 'so why did you let us come back?' and suddenly the spirit entered the room. Antonio thought about it and then told us that he hadn't been baptized with his family because he still had some doubts about the BofM that nobody had explained to him, and he hadn't been able to get an answer. The missionaries and the members told him that he had to be baptized first before he could get answers because he doesn't have the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He said that a lot of members of the branch get baptized and then never come back, and he said that if we was going to make a covenant with God, he wanted to be sure about it because he is going to keep that covenant until the day he dies. Golden! I just can't believe the retarded, self-centered missionaries that taught him before us. What was even more amazing, was that our lesson about the BofM ended up being perfect. We testified to him that not only can he receive answers for himself, but God wants him to receive answers for himself. What other church can do that? It was really great. So the lesson we learned from that is, yes you do have to be able to go by the Spirit in your lessons, but that does not make up for listening to the Spirit while you prepare.

We had a similar experience with Felipe. We decided that he also needed to learn about the BoM, but while we were preparing for him, I was prompted that we should do it in a different way. We told him about what the BofM is, what it contains, and that in it, Christ appears to the Nephites. We decided that we would read 3 Nephi 11 with him, which we were really uncertain about, but it was just perfect! Even though our lesson got interrupted and we only had half the time we had planned for, the Spirit was there, and I think Felipe really felt the change. The best thing, is that we decided we need to talk to him about Faith in Christ in our next lesson and then about baptism. And guess what 3 Nephi 11 contains??? A whole bunch about Christ, and all of his explicit teachings about baptism. We couldn't have logically planned this any better than it's going to work out.

What I learned from all of this . . . "Naught but the Spirit's divinest tuition will give us the wisdom to truly succeed." (By the way, I was never one to be spiritually stabbed by music before, but somehow, since I've been at the MTC, any time anybody sings anything, I absolutely turn into a marshmallow. Some of my best inspiration has come to me during musical moments.) We have to rely on the Spirit as missionaries. Also, I was thinking about poor Antonio and how desperate he must have felt to believe there was no way for him to get any answers. All he wanted, was to know. And how many people are there just like him on this planet. People need the gospel so badly, and I'm so glad to be able to get it to him. Also, the BoM is an extremely powerful tool in conversion. Not because it is better than the Bible, because they are equally in that regard. The both contain the fullness of the gospel, but the simplicity of the BoM and the way it constantly testifies of Christ bring the spirit powerfully to the hearts of men.

Also this week, I've been thinking a lot about repentance because Hna. L. and I are teaching district meeting this Sunday. When most of us think 'repentance' we go straight to forgiveness of sins, which is an important and amazing part of repentance. However, there is a much broader definition of repentance than that. Repentance is also a process of changing our ideas about God, ourselves, and the world to be in harmony with the way God thinks. Repentance is just change. It is becoming more like God, easy as that. So why is it that we always think of repentance as being this awful struggle that we have to go through. That's what Satan wants us to think. Repentance is beautiful! Repentance is power. Can you imagine someone living in the slums of a third world country, or a family struggling with relationship issues or whoever it is with any kind of problem coming to know that they can be like God some day? That's what repentance is, and it's so amazing. That's what I get to talk to people about every day for the next 17.25 months. I have the best job in the world . . . and in the eternities.

On a lighter note. This week, the other Hnas. in our district taught Antonio as well and they needed his wife to be there, so I got to be our teacher's wife for 45 minutes, and I have to say that it was pretty darn awkward, haha. Hno.Y gets really into his role playing, so he didn't even bat an eye, but he has this way of looking at people like he is scanning your whole soul that kind of made me a little bit nervous to play the part. Not to mention, there are a lot of rules about male-female interactions for missionaries that seemed to be hanging more heavily in the air than usual, haha. It was ok though. To stay true to my role, and so that he would know why I was there with the other Hnas, instead of knocking and waiting at the door of his "house," I just knocked and walked in, announcing myself with "Hola mi amor! Encontre las missioneras en la calle." And the rest was history. I realized watching the other Hnas. struggling through their lesson how incredibly blessed I have been with learning Spanish. They struggled to say every single word, even though they work their tails off in class. The last few days, Hna. L. and I have really been working on speaking Spanish as much as possible, and it has been amazing how much we have learned. When we're in lessons, I feel like I can say just about anything that I might need to, one way or another. Also, this week during TRC, we taught a native Chilena, and I understood almost every single word that came out of her mouth, which gives me hope that I won't have such a dramatic "this ain't the language the taught me in the MTC" moment when I get to Texas. I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but it's encouraging to feel help from beyond myself.

Elder M. Russell Ballard came to devotional this week. He talked about a lot of stuff, but a few points that stood out to me . . .

1. The best missionaries understand what Christ did for them and turn their 18 months over to the Savior and rely on his Atonement for everything

2. Heavenly Father trusts us to be his representatives. Afterward, President Blackham told us he really believes that true because we have been given Preach My Gospel to teach with instead of memorized lessons which gives us much more potential, but also a lot more room for error.

3. He blessed us that our love for Heavenly Father would be accelerated, and that through morning and nightly prayer, we will be reassured that Heavenly Father is mindful of us.

Really quickly before I give the computer over to some poor missionary missing their family . . .

I love you all. I've taken way to much time on the computer, but I'm going to try to attach some pictures anyway. Thank you all for your letters. The church is true, the gospel of Jesus Christ is amazing!

Hna Emily