Tuesday, April 30, 2013

4/29/13 Transfer Week

Dear Family,

It's transfer week, and what a transfer it is going to be. When President called on Monday and said I might be getting a challenge, I immediately felt that I was going to be training. That was my very first thought. I told Hermana B that, and as a kind, loving companion who didn't want me to fret throughout the week, she convinced me that was impossible because President can't go against the training program. For those who don't know, the new missionary training program lasts twelve weeks, or two transfers. While you are training, they encourage you to prepare to train someone else at the end of 12 weeks if you are called upon to do so. I've only been out 6 weeks, so it would be against the training plan for me to train after only 6. I would have to finish training myself and a new greenie simultaneously. Thanks to Hermana B, I didn't worry about it too much this week. I convinced myself that the challenge President meant was that we would be getting three new sisters in the area and Hermana B, who knows this place like the back of her hand, would be leaving and it would be my responsibility to fill everyone in.

So. Last night President called to give us transfer news. He talked to Hermana Bfirst who is indeed being transferred to train a greenie in a trio with another experienced sister, and she has been assigned to be one of the new Sister Training Leaders for the mission. We both saw that one coming. Then the phone got passed to me. The conversation went something like this:

"Sister Christensen, are you sitting down?"

"Yes President."

"I'm glad to hear it, because you're driving, and it wouldn't be very safe if you weren't. Well Sister Christensen, you will be staying in Del Rio and you will be training. You will also be getting another companionship of sisters who will be training as well."

So, there you have it. As much as I thought I would be shocked if that's what he said, I wasn't really. I honestly had convinced myself it wouldn't happen, but I knew it was going to as soon as President talked to me on Monday, I knew I was going to be training. So did Hermana B, but she didn't want me to worry about it, which I'm grateful for. Challenge indeed. I know that I can do it. If Heavenly Father through my mission president is assigning me to train, I'm more than happy to do it. What I'm most worried about is my Spanish. I feel like I speak pretty well, but I still have a hard time understanding what the native speakers are saying to me. I've been praying all week for the Gift of Tongues to help me understand, because I knew that even if I wasn't going to train this transfer, I most likely would be next transfer. Yesterday at church, I noticed that I understood a lot more than I usually do, and I know it's because I've been praying for help. The silly thing is, sometimes I pray and I forget to ask for the Gift of Tongues. And guess what? I don't get it. But when I pray and I ask specifically for help to understand, it comes. It gives a whole new meaning to the scripture "ask and ye shall receive." That's really a true principle. Heavenly Father has so many blessings he wants to give to you, but he has to wait for us to ask him for them. Hermana B also shared something comforting with me. She said that when you are the senior companion, Heavenly Father knows that you are responsible for helping your companionship understand and be successful, and he blesses you. Her words were "expect it." So I'm going to. I am going to expect that Heavenly Father will bless me as I am living worthily of those blessings, because this is his work and he wants us to succeed even more than we want to. I have faith in that.

I want to answer your question about why I love working with less active members One thing that I guess is a little bit different about my situation from yours, is that working with RCLAs (Recent Convert, Less-Actives) means I actually have more freedom in what we discuss. RCLAs generally have a better idea of gospel principles than investigators, and so we can talk about things on a slightly deeper level than we usually get to. Not super deep by any means, but enough that it's easier to help people see how these things really apply to them. You just get to dig around a little bit more instead of feeling like you're walking on egg shells not knowing exactly what it is they already believe (although sometimes you find out that RCLAs believe strange things too). Also, RCLA work tends to yield more visible fruit. So far, it has been much easier to help them come to church than to drag investigators kicking and screaming by the hair every Sunday when we have to do all of the work to wake them up, get them ready and get them there. In your situation, you don't have the comparison of working with investigators to make less-active work more motivating, but there's more to it that I really love that does apply to you. That part of it is that I love helping people remember the baptismal covenants they have made. I tell you what, as a missionary, it has shocked me how comfortable people feel just spilling their whole life story to you. We had an experience this week where we met an RCLA who was born, raised, and converted here about a year and half ago, but then moved, had a miserable year, went inactive, and came back to visit her family. We walked into her house, sat down on her couch and within five minutes, she had proceeded to tell us all of the things she had done in the last year that were against the covenants she had made. She even paused at one point and said "I have no idea why I'm telling you this. It's so embarrassing." But people do it all the time: Standard day in the life of a missionary. I have heard more drama in the last six weeks of being a missionary than I have ever been exposed to in the rest of my life. It's so sad to me to hear it over and over, but it has strengthened my testimony so much of the commandments that Heavenly Father has given us. 


Commandments are not here to restrict us. The Law of Chastity is your best friend. The Word of Wisdom is your other best friend. Stay as far away from the line as possible, ALWAYS. People are so miserable when the break themselves against the commandments. They are deceived by the lies of the world that they will be happier if they are disobedient, but they are not. They are miserable. What I love about working with RCLAs is that they usually know the gospel is true, but they don't really understand it. They have big gaps of "gospel application" that are missing in their lives, and as missionaries with testimonies of these principles that have come from a lifetime of living them, we have the opportunity to pass that on to other people who are miserable and invite them to act so that they can be happy. And usually, it starts with something as basic as prayer. Then scriptures study. Then coming to church. You build slowly and steadily and it takes forever, but in the end, you have people that are really converted because they were miserable, they learned the gospel and were happy, then they were disobedient and miserable, and then they became happy again when they were obedient, and they know without a shadow of a doubt that the gospel is not only true, but is applies to us. The gospel is real life. It is as real as it gets.

This week, JG passed the Sacrament for the first time ever with his son J Jr. there to help him. Hermana B and I were on the stand to play the piano, so we got to watch their faces as they interacted together. It was literally a precious moment. Afterward, we talked to J, and he told us the branch president would interview him to go to the temple with the youth at the end of the month if he would start today to pay his tithing and not drink coffee which we figured out this week he has also been drinking. J is going to the temple!!!!!  We've also spent a lot of time with a woman named V who was baptized about 18 months ago, and she told us yesterday that she finally has a desire to go to the temple and is going to start this week to schedule interviews to get her recommend. V is going to the temple!!! That's why I love working with RCLAs. You get to help people see how the gospel is not only true, but applies to them and helps them to really be happier as they live it.

Dad, I loved your thought again for the week. This morning, we were talking about how developing Christ-like attributes helps us to keep our covenants, and I love that 2 Peter1:4 starts out by saying that we are given promises that we may be partakers of the divine nature. In essence, that says to me that Heavenly Father has promised us a way to become even as he is, and that as we strive to develop these attributes, which is a part of the covenants we make with him, we will not be unfruitful. That's why commandments and covenants are so great! Because Heavenly Father is bound when we do what he says. If we are obedient, we can KNOW without a doubt that he will bless us and he will always be on our team helping us to come back to live with him. I'm just all over the place today, but we've been asked a lot this week (and I'm sure this will continue throughout the mission), that if there is a God, why is there so much unfairness in the world? It's like what Ethan said in his talk. Heavenly Father gives us challenges and trials because they help us grow, but when we have this eternal perspective of covenants and commandments, we can know that everything is going to turn out happy and fair in the end. 

An item of business before I have to go (although I will probably have a few minutes this evening to check back and respond briefly to all of you wonderful saints out there who wrote to me this week). President Jones hates phone calls home because so many missionaries go nuts over them. The rules he has set to prevent our missionaries from losing their minds are that phone calls are done by phone (not Skype unless your parents live over seas) and they last no more than 45 minutes. We should definitely compare schedules next week so that we don't miss each other, but I'm sorry to tell you that I won't be able to Skype.

Also, my termination date that I mentioned last week is officially set for August 6th next year. President called Salt Lake and they changed it.

I love you all! Thank you for your letters! The church is true, the gospel is true and they apply to all of us. Live the commandments. Keep your covenants. They make you happy.

Have a wonderful week!


4/12/13 Free to Cheese the Switter or the Beet

Dear Family,

 2 Nephi 2:27 was the theme of our week this week. My title for this email is a combination of two lead tongue moments this week from Hermana B as we were talking about this for our various investigators. I really like the addition of 2 Nephi10:23. That's the perspective I need right at the moment as I had a rather emotionally difficult week. Especially the latter half.

Wednesday, we went three times to the apartment of a potential investigator. The first time, we had an appointment scheduled and they postponed it to 5 pm. We came back at 5, and nobody was there, so we came back again at 6. Nobody was there again, but P’s mom A lives right beneath them  and she was outside. While we were visiting with A we learned that the couple we were trying to visit upstairs fight a lot and very loudly. Putting two and two together, we're pretty sure that's where the large blue bruises we've seen all over V come from. I had that sitting in the back of my head, and then, as a favor to the branch president we picked up the Elders and took them to give a blessing to the inactive daughter of a member named D who was recently assaulted by her husband. He broke into her house, beat her for two hours to within an inch of her life, tried to gouge out her eyes and then strangle her with the cord of a curling iron. She went to the police and they gave her a restraining order, but what good will that do? He broke into her house the first time. So in addition to being beaten and battling a resultant kidney infection, this woman is still afraid for her life. V's boyfriend E, and D's husband are two more examples of people who are products of the world. But then, here come these two young men, Elders with the Priesthood authority of God to heal and to comfort and to bless the lives of other people, and that realization again of what Heavenly Father expects of us and allows us and enables us to become washed over me again, and I just had to cry about it for a little bit. It is such a beautiful thing. The contrast is so great to me that I'm almost crying again just thinking about it. With all my being I loathe men of the world. I abhor them and it just makes me sick to think about all of the terrible problems they cause. But on the other hand, there is nothing to me more beautiful than a worthy Priesthood holder who has "become." Young men, do whatever it takes to be worthy of and use your Priesthood. Even if you don't understand why, do it on faith and one day you will understand and you will be so grateful that you did it.

So that was rough. I'm also really worried about M. I feel like we're starting to lose her, and it's so hard not to feel like it's my fault. We've realized as a companionship that there are skills and objectives we need to be working on, and the way we teach needs to be a little bit adjusted, and those things don't even necessarily relate to M's situation, but having that realization that you need to change and then watching an investigator starting to slip puts you in a really vulnerable situation. It's so hard not to look back and think "if only I had done something differently. If only we could change the way that lesson went." I wasn't here when Hermana B and her last companion started teaching M, but I wonder if we have spent sufficient time addressing the basic principles of the gospel. I don't think we ever allowed her to dig her roots in deep before moving on because she was so willing to listen and learn. She always accepted the commitments we've given her, but I think now that it has been a while of living those commitments, she's like the plant from the parable of the sowers that burst forth with tons of leaves and promise, but wasn't able to support it with the root system that's in place. I think she's a little bit top heavy, and now that she's realized it, she's feeling a little bit pushed. She didn't come to church yesterday although her recent convert friend, K, brought the girls after a sleep over, and she didn't come to a dinner we had planned with a member family last night. So pray for M. Her daughter J is so ready to be baptized. That girl eats the gospel up like she'll die tomorrow if she doesn't.

Onto happier thing: This week, we had a really fun lesson with the G family about prayer. We had them pretend to be reporters for the news and "interview" characters from the Book of Mormon about the who, what, when, where, why and how of prayer. At the end, they gave us a news report answering all of the questions, and they did a great job. In the meantime, J and B told us their "how we met" story. Are y'all ready for this? You're sure? Ok. Our story starts with B living in Acuna, Mexico when she's 16, and J living in Los Angeles when he's 22. J comes to Acuna to visit some friends or family and meets B. He likes her. She seems to like him. Three days later, he asks her (in his own words) "hey, you want to go with me? You want to marry me?" And she said, "sure." Well, J was leaving back to Los Angeles in a week and wasn't going to be back any time soon, so they got married less than a week later. My question: "B, what on earth were your parents thinking?!" B's dad was in jail at the time, and her mom told her she could do what she wanted, but she should always know she was welcome home if she needed to come back. So, thirteen years and three kids later, they've joined the church and they're working towards a celestial marriage. Crazy!! This story is another one that emphasizes to me the importance of our choices. J struggles with alcohol. At one point, B picked up with the kids and moved to Del Rio (we can see Acuna from our side of the river and B can go see her family often) because she couldn't take his addiction anymore. J, however, loves his wife and children and decided to follow them. He has worked so hard since then to give up alcohol and to be a good husband and father. He wants to change and is working so hard to "become." It's all about his choices. This Sunday, B wasn't feeling well, but J got all the kids up and ready and brought them all to church. He was even wearing a super smooshed, wrinkly red tie with his white shirt and jeans. He beat us to Sunday School and texted us to ask where we were, haha. Even just five weeks ago when I got here, he was still struggling with alcohol, and one of our first lessons was about the importance of coming to church. But as a family, they set a goal to come every Sunday, and now as the righteous head of his household, J is doing everything he can to make sure that happens. I love him!!

It's all about your choices. Every lesson we taught seemed to focus around that this week. What do we have control over? What righteous decisions can we make to be happy now and to become the person that Heavenly Father wants us to become? That's the best part about missionary work, is watching people make those right decisions. And the hardest part, when you have to watch people choose the other path, especially after you have poured so much of yourself into them.

That's the big news this week. I love you all, and I love hearing how things are going. I am so grateful, more and more every day, to have been raised in the gospel by a family that loves and cares for each other. Mom and Dad, you are such great role models and I hope I can have a family just like our someday. 

The gospel is true. It changes people. As we keep the commandments, we are happy, but we're free to cheese the switter option or the beet.

Love you all!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Emily and Sister B

"Well Done, Thou Good and Faithful Servant

Dear Family,

This week's title brought to you by the weather here in Del Rio. Tuesday it got up to 104 degrees with a hot wind blowing that provided absolutely no relief. It felt like being in a convection oven. When Hermana B expressed this thought to one of the ladies in our ward, her response was "well, it gives a whole new meaning to 'well done, thou good and faithful servant.'" And truly, that's how we've felt a couple of days this week. Salt encrusted and baked to a crisp. Yum!

Mom, I LOVED your email this week!! It just sounds like our family, the way people chose to spend their time, how they all reacted to everything . . . it just makes me happy. Thank you for all the details.  I loved reading about the boys and the time they spent together this week. I've been in so many homes in Del Rio where the family dynamics are just terrible, and I am so grateful that I have siblings who love each other and are helpful and respectful and that I have parents who taught us all how to be that way. Y'all are so great, and I love you all so much. I'm really excited for Alan to be working on his mission papers. I can't wait to hear how all of that goes down!! I'm so excited for Carrie to go to Wood Badge too! That'll be a lot of fun, and a great experience. 

Also, I really appreciated your mentions of the things you have all been doing to help out with the ward this week, and how you said that this is all the same work. I had a testimony building moment of the same thing this week. Two nights ago, I was talking to Hermana B about working with less actives and ward members and empowering them to help and strengthen each other, and she asked the question "but is that really missionary work?" It is! As missionaries, we get to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ which is faith, repentance, baptism, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. Full-time missionaries try to focus on the first four steps, but the last step is just as important as the first four, and it encompasses a life time of obedience and covenant making. As members of the church, we are responsible for doing missionary work. We are responsible for helping the full-time missionaries in accomplishing the first four steps, but also hugely responsible for the bulk of step number five, enduring to the end. Everyone needs help enduring to the end, and missionaries are only here for just a short while. Yesterday during testimony meeting in the Spanish branch, a whole bunch of less active members we have been working with, or that Hermana B has spent seven months working with, got up to bear their testimonies, including J G who testified in two sentences that blessings come when we obey the commandments (he's the one struggling with the Word of Wisdom). During that meeting, I had a powerful confirmation that member work whether it's reactivating less-actives or giving service to the faithful members of the church is missionary work. I have a testimony of that principle. It doesn't matter where you are or what stage of life you are in, there is nothing more important in this world than helping Heavenly Father to take care of his children by leading them to eternal truths which bring happiness. I know that. Every soul is great in the sight of God. Heavenly Father has created worlds without end and could have put each of us on our own little world to work out salvation by ourselves, but that is not his plan. He put us together so that we can learn from each other and grow together and help each other reach our final destination. I love being a missionary, and I am so glad to know that this work will not end for me when I take off my black name tag.

Dad, glad to get your email as always. We've been talking a lot with our members and investigators about how to recognize the Spirit, and a lot of the investigators especially tell us things like "well I haven't ever had a vision or heard voices in the night, so I must not be righteous enough to receive an answer, but when it comes I'll let you know." Kings is a great reference for that. I'm going to start using it. Also, my kick recently has been the importance of keeping the commandments, especially prayer, scripture study and church attendance. Those three things are small and simple means, but when we do them faithfully, great things are brought to pass. We have the spirit as a constant companion, which as you said, is also a small and simple thing which brings great things to pass. I love it! Dad, I really love you. You're such a great example of what a righteous Priesthood holder should be. I love that you love your family, and you honor and respect your wife. I love how you're always happy when Mom is happy. We've had so much drama down here the last week, and I'm just so grateful every day for the example that was set in my home.

A and P: The worst of the drama is actually a mother-daughter duo. P is a young recent convert, who loves the gospel and got baptized even though her mother wasn't happy about it. She wants to serve a mission, but doesn't know how she'll be able to because of her mom, A. A is needy and does not have a very independent spirit and relies heavily on P to do things for her. She also has a lot of the Latina mentality of not wanting to let go of her children at all. Her son (older than P) is currently incarcerated, and she tries to pull the reins in on P as hard as she possibly can to the point of being smothered. The other day, we had a visit with P at her house while A was home, and for the first time, A was really nice to us. She sort of listened from the other room instead of leaving like I'm told she usually has. Last week, she came to General Conference to "surprise P" and we were all super excited because we thought this might be an answer to P's prayer to serve a mission. However, P found out her mom was there and wouldn't come to Conference. We all chastised her for not coming, until we figured out there was more to the situation. P had not been living at home the last couple of days because of a conflict with her mother. A. had not been able to get a hold of P, and was probably hoping to literally surprise P by being at church where A didn't think P would choose to run away from. We found out that P had been staying with the family of her recent convert boyfriend (also an interesting dynamic), and later that day we got a text from him asking us not to tell A where he lives. Interesting. So, the week goes by, and Saturday morning, we get about six phone calls from A before we are able to answer the phone. She asked us to come teach her, so we did, focusing heavily on baptism and the importance of making covenants. A. told us that she has decided she wants to learn more about the church and was very emotional as she talked about wanting to go to church with P and being closer with her children. I'm sure that desire is sincere. However, I'm not sure that her interest in the church is sincere in a way that will head her to that result. She didn't want to commit to baptism, and at the end of the lesson, asked us to drive her to "look at a house" she may want to buy because her son won't be able to live with them in their apartment because he won't pass the background check when he's released from prison. Fortunately, we can't drive investigators, so we said no. Yesterday, A. came to church again. P. did not. At the end of Sacrament meeting, after being pretty needy the whole time, A. wanted to talk to us again, and asked us again, even though we had said no, if we could help her to go see the house. She wanted to know where the boyfriend lived, because the house she was told about "is on the same street where he lives." We saw through that one pretty quickly, and told her we didn't know where he lived, which was a fib but not something we could figure out how to avoid at the time. The senior missionaries took her home, and about an hour later, we got two phone calls from A. that we didn't answer and a voice mail that sounded like she was in tears and needed to talk to us, because she "was feeling something." Ay yay yay! We have a lesson scheduled with her today, and we're going to have to lay down the law. We're not here to be manipulated, and we can't make P. come home. It feels like high school all over again!! Yipee!

That's the worst of the drama. We've also had a little bit with M who isn't sure she is ready to be baptized this coming weekend as planned, but that's good drama in so far as it helps her to better prepare. Also, K, one of Hermana B's converts, texted us yesterday and said she was going through something she wanted to explain in person, and we were afraid it might be more drama. It turned out that she hadn't been feeling the same spiritual drive the last few weeks (which we've been able to see) since she was baptized, and was really worried about it. She thought maybe she needed a Priesthood blessing (which we told her was a great idea) and we just counseled with her a little bit about how to deal with the spiritual slump. I will take that kind of drama! If our investigators and converts aren't feeling it and are worried about it, that's great!! The problem is, when they're not feeling it and they don't care. K will get through it because she is faithful and her desires are in the right place, which is the recipe for blessings.

Despite the drama, we've also seen a lot of blessings this week. On Saturday, we were able to teach seven lessons, which was one for almost every single hour of our day. It was exhausting, but that's the kind of exhaustion we want as missionaries. A, an investigator we hadn't been able to contact all week, finally pulled through and we were able to teach him Saturday night and commit him to come to church. He came and attended Gospel Principles (which Hna. B and I taught on the fly in Spanish . . . I loved it!!) where he was an absolute pillar in our discussion. We need him as part of our branch because his testimony is already amazing, and he understands things much better than many of our members. B and J  also took a leadership role in our discussion which was really rewarding to witness. Earlier this week, we had been discussing their family and what they needed to progress. We decided that B needs a real calling. She and J are "door greeters" which is more condescending than helpful, but it's more of a calling than just about anyone else in the 3rd branch has (something else I would love to make headway on is preparing all of the 3rd branch to actively hold callings). We brainstormed for a while, but couldn't think of any good solutions, so we moved on to calling our dinner appointment for the next day, Sister D, who is the YW President for the combined 1st and 3rd branch young women. While we were talking, she said something about, "man, I really need a laurels adviser." Ding, ding, ding!!! The words were out of her mouth and we pounced on them, explaining about B and what her needs were and matching them up to the needs of the young women. Sister D told us she already felt great about it, so hopefully, B will be getting a calling. Yay!!

Friday, Hna. B took me on a complete tour of our area. I saw Mexico and the Rio Grande (it's really just a glorified creek) and there were people on the other side of it standing on the cliffs next to the water. Either they were teenagers hiding from their parents so they could smoke pot, or they were about to swim for it. We also toured Cienegas which felt like being back in South Africa minus a few mansions here and there where the drug lords live. Exciting.

My favorite quote from the week. We were teaching an 8 year old boy and asked him how he felt when he read the scriptures. He said "it's like I have Jesus all over me." 

I have a testimony of the importance of keeping God's commandments. When we do, we get to have Jesus all over us. In fact, we have the incredible blessing to understand that when we keep the commandments, we can become even as Jesus is. Woah! That's so cool! The more I study the scriptures, the more I see that everything, everything, that is taught, points us to that potential. I love this gospel. I love being a missionary despite the drama. We scheduled our P-day so that we could go take a two hour nap, because we're pooped.

I love you all so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Future Missionaries

Tables were turned when Emily's and Sister B's tags, backpacks, scarves and scriptures got commandeered for a game of "Missionaries" between conference sessions . Emily and Sister B got to be the investigators taught by the missionary girls.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Picture with President and Sister Jones

This picture came from Emily's mission president this week along with a letter.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Pictures from Del Rio

April 1, 2013, "Placentero No Es Trabajar"

Dear Family,

Mom, I did get the ipod package. I realized right after P-Day ended last week that I had forgotten to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! I've been listening to MoTab and Prince of Egypt in the shower and while I get ready in the mornings, and it's been great. It's funny how songs like "May It Be" from LOTR suddenly take on new meaning when you look at them from the perspective of a missionary. It was especially great to listen to MoTab sing about the Savior on Easter morning. Thank you for the iHome as well. I didn't end up bringing an alarm clock with me, and those aren't provided in the apartments, so the music, alarm clock combo is an added bonus. I just got my Easter package this morning! The office is supposed to call when a package comes in, but they don't usually. So we just went and asked and they had it there in a pile. Thank you! I'm eating a Reese's egg as I type and I'm enjoying it thoroughly. I love the thank you cards. They're super cute. More especially, I love you and I really appreciate the time you took out of your hectic life to throw that together for me.

This week for our district meeting training on Tuesday, we did an activity where everyone wrote a teaching scenario on a piece of paper, and then they were passed around and we came up with a brief teaching plan based on the situation. To preface, I love the senior couple that serves in our area, but this example highlights to me what I have heard all my life from adult leaders and never really understood. They always tell us "your generation is so much better than mine was" and I didn't ever understand that because I always looked up so much to my leaders and their experience, and I still do. So, Elder G. was given a scenario where he was teaching a woman whose husband was 75ish, had smoked all of his life, and had liver cancer. This woman's goal was to see her husband baptized before he died. Elder G.'s lesson plan was "well, this gentleman is at the end of his life, he isn't likely to change now, and so I would just teach this good woman about temple work for the dead and wait until he kicks the bucket to get him baptized." When all is said and done, that may be what would have happened, but none of the junior missionaries were content with that answer. We all felt that this man deserved a chance in life to accept as much as he could and to have the opportunity to pray for miracles that he could overcome his addiction and be baptized if he would choose to do so. I think the difference is that we have grown up in a different generation where all of us have had to rely on our testimonies of the Atonement to make it through to this point. The world is harder to navigate than it used to be, and because of that, we have had to withstand buffetings from all sides for as long as any of us can remember, and that has made our testimonies stronger. I see a difference from what I had to go through to what Aidan will have to go through, but I do know that because the world is getting harder, the youth of the church are going to keep getting stronger as they hold onto what they believe and stand firm in the faith. I loved Sister Dalton's talk about that at the YW broadcast this weekend. Everything she said is true.

This story just bugs me. We have the opportunity to visit every week with our ward mission leader and ward missionary. They're both good guys, but this week at our first correlation, they were making generalizations about women, how "every woman is just so flighty and flaky and scatter-brained" and "I don't know what they did. It was one of those weird girl things that you guys do" and just saying things like that, that I'm sure they didn't even think twice about. It made me SO MAD! Because even though they were just tiny little comments, and I'm sure these young leaders will grow up and be just fine, we do not have room for stuff like that in our world. Although in a minor way, this is an example of "unrighteous dominion." These guys feel like because they are men, because they are returned missionaries, they have the right to criticize women, to criticize non RMs (meaning all of us that they work with who are serving missions now) and to criticize members of the ward that don't do things the same way they do. We do not have room for this kind of attitude.  I will NOT let my children grow up to think that way.
Anyway. On to happier things! Easter sounds like you guys had some fun. The Easter Bunny seems to have maintained if not upped his standard of hiding excellence, and Dad had a unique forray into Biblical Acting.
Dad, you asked about my companion. Hermana B. is the best!! She likes to say she grew up in Albaquerque, New Mexico, which is true, but really that means she doesn't want to be in the 90% of missionaries that are from Utah. Her family lives right now in American Fork, and when we were watching the YW broadcast, she knew about 10 of the girls in the choir, and the closing prayer. Before her mission, she was at Utah State studying early childhood education because they have a really good program up there. Hna. B is really fun. She likes to be spontaneous, so when it rained for the first time in a long time in Del Rio yesterday, we ran outside and got ourselves pretty soaked. At the same time, she's a really hard worker, and I love teaching with her. She loves the scriptures and has a lot to say about them, so sometimes lessons end up being a little lopsided, but it works out great. As my Spanish is getting better, I'm more able to jump in and participate. She's really good at turning contacts into Quality Gospel conversations (QGCs), so while we don't ever contact the mission standard of 120 per week, we do pretty well on our QGCs, and we're teaching the mission standard of 15 lessons per week, which is why we don't have time to contact 120 people, besides which, the population density isn't as high here as it is other places. Hna. B likes to run and also has eating challenges like me, but that didn't stop us from going to Rudy's and eating 1/2 lb of turkey, the biggest smoked potato I've ever seen in my life topped with butter, cheese, sour cream, and 1/2 lb of brisket, a pint of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream, creamed corn and some cole slaw (I'll include a picture at the end). I feel like we're a really good combination, and yet again, I feel so blessed to be with another companion that I love so much. Oh, I also found out that she plays the Viola quite well, and is vaugely aquainted with Aunt Kristine from one orchestra or another that she was in in the valley area. Maybe Timpanogos?
The flavor of Del Rio. It really depends where you are. "In town" feels about like Pocatello if you took away the mountains and added a lot more Mexican and BBQ. There's a mall, but there's not a lot in it as far as we have been told, and a WalMart which is where we went shopping today. Closer to the border, there are areas that feel more like you're in Mexico. The houses are slummier and packed closely together, the roads are dirt, and most people speak Spanish. Then, there's the airforce base which has it's own flavor. I imagine it's about the same as Wright Patterson with government issue housing with tile floors and lots of rules about what you can and can't do and when and where. A lot of the members of the 1st branch are young families from the airforce base, and I've been told the turn over is pretty quick because of that. There's also the regular residential part of town, and further out of our area, there are ranch style homes spaced far apart on large pieces of dusty, cactusy property. The biggest problem we have with our investigators is church attendance. Growing up Catholic by inheritance but not belief, most people love their families, but just don't get what that has to do with them going to church. Catholicism is also the most common and convenient excuse not to listen to the missionaries.
This week at church, we actually had three investigators!! We spent a lot of time helping N and her family move on Saturday and packing earlier in the week, and we actually didn't invite them to church, but one of N's member friends had, and since it was Easter, she came and brought all of her kids. Woot woot!! They only stayed for Sacrament meeting, but it was still really great to see them there. We also met a guy on Saturday named F. He's about 5 feet tall, old and wrinkled, and the cutest man alive. He lives alone after the death of his wife about five years ago, and he told us that he loves to hear the word of God. He came and stayed all three hours and I think he made a lot of friends among the members who just scooped him up and showed him what to do.
For Easter Dinner, we were invited over to the W's (a young family on base) and they fed us a delicious dinner and Sister W sent us home with an Easter basket. It was such a fun dinner appointment. We taught their boys about prophets by playing Prophet Says No, Prophet Says Go (Red light, Green light), and then we sang follow the prophet, read a scripture, and talked a little bit about general conference. By the way, I am SOO excited for General Conference. Our big thing is inviting people to invite people to come, because it's a great opportunity for non-members to feel the spirit and see the restoration in action.
Friday, we had a really cool experience that testified to me that Heavenly Father is mindful of his "lost sheep." We've discovered that as we're contacting, we actually seem to bump into a lot of inactive members as much as we find non-members willing to listen. The other day, we had about two hours and couldn't decide where to knock, but finally settled on Hodge street. The first lady we talked to was named R. She was like "yeah, my daughter got baptized Mormon about 12 years ago, but hasn't been to church in a while. You should come back tomorrow and we can sit down and talk for real." We haven't been able to catch her at home yet because of the Easter holiday, but I'm really hoping we do and that we're able to find out more about her daughter. She didn't want to talk then because she was about to go make dinner. So we kept knocking doors and ended up knocking at a door that looked empty. While we were standing there, the lady in the house next door came outside and was trying to turn off the lights in her car. We weren't quite sure what to do, but we went over and helped her as best we could. She didn't seem like she wanted to talk, but after we figured out how to get her lights off, she walked into the house, wiped fried chicken grease off her hands and invited us in just like that. She sat us down and we talked to her, and out poured this story about how she had lost her son about 5 years ago in an accident and since then, she had just been totally numb to feeling anything. Tears were shed and we testified to her of the power of the Atonement, that when put into action, it has the power to heal her and to help her feel again. Her response was "yeah, I know. I'm Mormon too." What?!?! Hermana B has been in this area for 6 months, knows everyone in every house and had never heard of her before. The craziest thing, is that she doesn't even live in the house we were at. She was just there visiting her granddaughters and we happened to stop by at the right time. Right after she said that, she gave us references of people she wanted us to teach and then her son walked into the house. I had no idea who he was, but Hna. B did. He's also an inactive member, and this whole time she thought he lived in the Elder's area where we aren't allowed to teach. So, I'm not sure what will happen next because Hermana R lives in the Elder's Area, but we'll see if we can't help her out as much as possible.
We taught M and J and A again this week. The lesson went great, but then they didn't come to church, which means we have to move their baptismal date back a week, and that's kind of frustrating, especially because she didn't seem that broken up about it. I'm a littl worried and praying that we don't start losing them, because they're doing so well!!
We also found this really cool guy named A. He's probably about 60, we've taught him twice, both good lessons, and he told us when we asked him to be baptized in the first lesson that he'd had a thought about three months ago that had persisted, that he really needed to be baptized again, but wasn't sure why. So he has a baptismal date too, and from things he told us, I really feel like he has been prepared for this. He told us about dreams he has had where he was told that he needed to be looking for the true church, so he has been, and felt really good about what we taught him. The only problem is, he didn't come to church this week, and we're not sure why. He told us he was nervous about the social aspect of it, and not knowing anybody in the congregation, but we brought some friends for him to our last lesson, and the seemed to hit it off pretty well. It might also be his work schedule. As a plumber, he doesn't make a lot of money, and he said that sometimes he gets called in on Sundays. So that was a little frustrating as well, but we'll keep on him and see if we can't get him baptized yet.
Steven! I know somebody you know!! We were at dinner this week with the Rogers family, and I found out that one of their sons, X, served in the Cleveland mission with you. He says hi. Small world in the church. Even smaller in Del Rio, haha.
I think that's all the biggest news I have for you guys. The title for this week's email comes from one of the hymns in the Spanish hymn book that I love. It means "pleasing to us is the work" and was written by a missionary (possibly not LDS) that was thrown into prison (I think in Chile) as he was preaching. While he was there he wrote this hymn about missionary work. I picked it, because this week I have started to feel more and more that "pleasing to us is the work." I know that feeling will continue to mature right along with my sun tan lines, but I am grateful for a Heavenly Father who has answered my prayers and helped me to feel that when I needed it. The church is true which is why we can testify of it boldly. There's no need to be afraid because the message we have can only bless the people we share it with. I love it. I love being able to teach people how to have happier families, and I learn more and more every day that all of these blessings are given to us only because of the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. I love him for it, and he loves us all right back in return.
I hope you all have a marvelous week. Thank you all for your letters!!
Mucho amor,
Hermana Em