Friday, August 30, 2013

August 26th

Dear Family,

I want to start by letting you all know that this letter will not be as long as usual. The normal library we go to is closed today, and we're at one today that has a one hour limit, and I still have to write President. So, thank you all for your emails, I read them all, but don't have much time to respond.

I wanted to let you know about the temple. We were able to go on Friday as a companionship just to go. We saw the new video, and it was incredible!! So much made so muc more sense, and I felt like Heavenly Father really blessed me with a lot of insight and understading. The San Antonio temple is gorgeous, btw. It's not very big, but there is tons of beautiful stained glass throughout the building, and it just sparkles as you're sitting there thinking and feeling the spirit. It was so great to be in the house of the Lord and to be able to think in peace. We hardly wanted to leave.

But then the very next day we got to go again for the endowing and sealing of the G Family. What a choice experience!! We weren't sure we'd get in because the session was overbooked, but we got all green lights as we drove up Stone Oak Parkway, so we got there in time to get on the list, and there were enough spaces to get in. The whole Del Rio 3rd branch was there!! I felt like I was coming home!! So many people that I loved somuch in the temple. As we walked out of the lobby, there was Brother G, dressed all in white with a little pink ordinance tag pinned onto his shirt. He was beaming!! I only had time to shake his hand briefly before going to change. Waiting in line to get a name, Sister G came into the dressing room after her briefing with the temple matron. She saw me, ran over, engulfed me in a Mexican lady hug and just started to sob! "Thank you! Thank you! I love you, I miss you! Thank you so much for coming!" I cried a little bit too. We did the whole endowment session in Spanish (with the old video) and I understood the whole thing, although not quie well enough to really internalize it and get a lot of spiritual meaning from it. Brother G took Sister G through the veil, and we met them on the other side in the Celestial room. What a wonderful reunion. And the best is still to come! All of the 3rd ward packed into the sealing room and watched as the G's were sealed to each other. They were too short and plump to kiss over the altar without Sister G pusing up on her toes to reach.  :) We all made it through that part with dry eyes, but as soon as they brought the kids in, everyone melted. Sister G was crying, Brother G was crying, I was crying, the whole ward was crying, even Sister H who didn't know any of them was crying. It was so beautiful and such a sweet experience to be able to be there. Thinking about it after, I realized I have been there for a lot of firsts for the G family, especially Brother G. He gave his first talk, got his first calling, passed the Sacrament for the first time, bore his first testimony, conducted his first FHE, taught his first Sunday School lesson, wore his first tie to church, got the Melchizedek Preisthood, participated in his first confirmation, and is now endowed and sealed to his family for all eternity. Heavenly Father really is so wonderful to us, and he knew that I needed to have that experience to show me what I had been able to participate in during my time in Del Rio. It was so beautiful. If I don't have time today, I'll send pictures next week.

We're starting to find people, and I'm less exhausted than I was, both of which are good things. We only had one exchange this last week instead of two, and I think that really made a difference.

Also, I got the pictures you sent of Alan. What a stud!! I pulled them out to look at them last night, and I have to say I think I have the best looking brother on the continent. :)

Also, Lisa, I got the pictures of P and your wonderful letter and I drooled over them the whole night. I can't even tell you what a pick me up it is to get your letters and pictures every now and again. They always seem to come at exactly the right moments too when I'm feeling a little down and really need them. I'm going to try to write you this afternoon, but if I don't get the chance, know that I love you and I can't wait to come sleep on your couch next year!

I think those are the biggest highlights. 

I love you all so much!! Thank you for your prayers!

Have a wonderful week!



Aug 19th

Dear Family,
Guess who I found this week!?!? We got an address and a last name from Obispo G for a member move-in that he didn't know and asked us to go check up on them. So I went over this week while we were on exchanges and knock knock!! Who's there? Soledad!! I think we were both pretty happy to recognize a familiar face. My Spanish is a lot better than it used to be, but she was still really, really, really hard to understand. I had a flash back to sitting in the Beluga Bus and listening to Mom trying to teach her how to say "scarf." "Echarf?" "No, SCarf." "Eharf?" "We'll keep working on it."

Guess who else we found this week? Enough Sudanese and Iraqi refugees to start an Arabic branch. The same day that we met Soledad, Hna. M and I taught a first lesson in Arabic. Speak English, called in Spanish, teaching in Arabic. Here's how it went down. We knocked the door, it opened, the woman was brown, so I started in English. All I got was a stare, so I tried again in Spanish. More stares "Do you speak English? Espanol?" She looks at me for a minute, and then says, "Arabic." Well, that ain't the language they taught me in the MTC, so I whipped out a card and typing in the air asked "computer?" "Oh!" she said, "laptop?" "Yeah! Laptop." So we got onto, and checked out the languages section, but my favorite website in the whole world let me down. No Arabic. At this moment, we're sitting in her house, unable to communicate, unable to invite this woman to come unto Christ when all of a sudden, like manna in the wilderness, Heavenly Father sent us an interpreter. He's also an Iraqi refugee that lives across the hall named S. He interpreted for the US Army in Iraq for a while before coming to the US. It was a long, slow lesson, but after comparing Islam and Christianity for a while, we were finally able to get into the Restoration. Hna. Montgomery felt like we needed to share the First Vision, so we did, and while we were in the middle of quoting Joseph Smith, S asked "Is that a real story?" To which responded that yes, it was. "Well that's really weird, because in Islam, God doesn't come to people. He just sends angels." All things considered, it was a great lesson, and we got a return appointment for Saturday. Unfortunately because neither English nor Arabic is Spanish, we can't teach them and had to turn them over to the APs. But! We saw the APs at church on Sunday and they told us that S is an awesome investigator (F ended up uninterested) and he was at church with them. We also passed them another family that was at church, and we gave the sisters a referral that now has a baptismal date, and we gave the other sisters a family that they are teaching as well. We're thinking that maybe our purpose in Monte Vista isn't actually to teach anybody, just to give really awesome referrals to everyone else. I'm ok with that. It's all team Jesus. And eventually, the blessings will come back our way.

Yesterday, we were at the apartment complex where all of the refugees seem to live (we've also met people from Burma and Nepal), and one of the gentlemen from Iraq asked through an interpreter if we knew anyone that could teach him English. He can't work without English, and he's really motivated to learn. So, we told him that we're going to start a free class, and we'll tell him when it gets rolling. That's our project right now, is to get that going. And then when we do, eventually we'll pass all of our students over to the APs to be taught and baptized, and pretty soon, there will be an Arabic branch in San Antonio. My Spanish is a lot better now. Maybe they'll just reassign me to learn Arabic too! Or maybe, they'll make that apartment complex it's on mission and call a pair of Elders to the Texas, Nob Hill, Arabic speaking mission. :)
We're planning on going to the temple before the end of this transfer. Hna. L called me from Del Rio and said the G Family is planning to come up this Saturday to be endowed and sealed, and if that happens, we'll definitely be going. Unfortunately, they haven't translated the new video into Spanish, so it'll probably be the old one. I'm thinking I'll try to go again some time when I can see the new one. I've heard it's really good. And I need to go to the temple.

Mom, I'm feeling really pooped. I think I'm at an endure to the end stage. I've just been so tired, both physically, emotionally, spiritually, all around. Personal study the last few days hasn't been as rewarding as usual, I get grumpy super easily, and I'm experiencing all kinds of weird twinges and palpitations at random times and in random places. In fact, as we speak, there's a muscle spasing out below my left rib. Weird. I love what I'm doing, but I'm just wiped, and sometimes the thought of being here for another whole year without the hope of napping whenever I need to just seems a little bit overwhelming. But I'm trying to take it one day at a time, love my companion a little bit more, pray a little bit harder, and I'm trusting that I'll be able to snap out of it eventually.

The Lord is blessing us. We taught two member present lessons on Saturday, which is more than ever so far, and yesterday, we got an awesome referral from a guy in Utah. He came down here on business in April and gave a Book of Mormon to a hotel worker that looked like he needed it. Through this guy's son that served a Spanish speaking mission, they found out that the Hotel Worker had been reading the Book of Mormon every day since April. And we talked to him this morning on the phone. He's going out of town, but we're going to meet with him when he gets back. So cool!!
Some thoughts about food. I've been able to stay well within my budget eating the way that we do at home. Of course, I don't eat as much as a voracious 18 year old, but the budget hasn't been a problem for me. I usually eat cereal with a banana and soy/almond milk for breakfast or I'll make a smoothie or some oatmeal. Every now and then, I'll whip up some banana pancakes which are pretty easy to make. 1 banana, 1 c flour, about 1/2 t salt, about 1 t baking powder, a half spoonful of sugar, and water until it runs right. For lunch, sometimes I like to put a sweet potato into the oven at 400 while I do language study, and then it's done an hour later when it's lunch time. PB&Js are a good option, bagged salad, frozen veggies, canned beans. He could buy some minute brown rice and throw some black beans in a pot with onions, garlic powder and a little cumin, and voila! Rice and beans. Refried beans and tortillas with spinach and salsa works. He could even make oven fries and a hamburger. Often times, people give us food and we end up with left overs too. I like making other stuff too, but it involves a little more cooking.

I love you all. The gospel is true. Heavenly Father loves us so much and just wants to bless us. He just waits for us to ask because he doesn't want to take away our agency. Keep up the good work everyone!!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Transfer Day

August 5th, 2013

Dear Family,

As always, it's great to hear about yall's adventures. Mom, I was able to watch the video about Sister Brock and loved seeing some familiar sights, but there's no sound in the library, and we're not supposed to use headphones. As soon as I get a chance, I'll watch it with stereo. We've been sharing a lot of cards and referring people to watch the videos, so now I'll have a specific one to reference.  J

A lot of our time this week was spent with the mundane tasks of opening an area. We finally got some boundaries set so that we don't end up proselyting in someone else's stake again (oops!), bought a map, divided our area into smaller bites, mapped out which members we cover, visited the mission office to get Spanish teaching supplies, called all of the English ward bishops, and took care of some STL stuff too, like coordinating exchanges for the rest of the transfer (two a week until the end!), calling district and zone leaders to get info about our sisters etc, etc. 

That being said, there were still some great moments to highlight. This week's focus is FAMILIES!! President Slaughter is all about finding and teaching families, which I love. That's really what we need in the church, and families that convert are more likely to stay active than single people that convert by themselves. The problem is, families are usually harder to teach, so sometimes, we shy away from finding and teaching them. President Slaughter was in the mission office the same time we were there getting supplies, and I realized as we talked to him for a few minutes that normally when we set goals for finding new investigators, I only plan for one or two. What family with a father and mother is made up of one person? I can't think of any. So this week, we've been setting our goal higher, with 3, 4 or 5 new investigators, trusting that Heavenly Father will help us find families.

So, one evening, we were at an apt complex to knock, but sitting in the car finishing a phone call. When I looked up, there was a family of four getting out of their car!! "Sister H!! It's our family!!" Papers flying, backpacks neglected, we tumbled out of our car and practically ran over to them. The contact turned into a QGC (quality gospel conversation) turned into a first lesson turned into two new investigators (their girls are both under 8). I'm not sure they'll get baptized or even turn into a second lesson (they've been ignoring our calls), but Heavenly Father helps us meet our goals when we have faith to find. 

In Mission Leadership Conference (MLC) this week (one of the perks of being an Sister Training Leader, or STL), we talked about blind spots and fathers. So what's a blind spot? Imagine you're picking raspberries. When you walk up to the bushes, there are usually one or two ripe ones visible, but not very many. In order to find the really good ones, you have to dig a little bit, turn over leaves, hunt around, and often times, the very best, ripest clumps of raspberries are hidden beneath the surface of leaves where they're not readily visible. Now imagine that you knock a door, talk to the mother of the house who is receptive to your message, and in your excitement to teach her a first lesson, don't think to invite her teenage kids into the room to come and listen or ask where her husband is and if he might be interested in the message too. So many times, we walk into a teaching situation and pick the "raspberries" that we can see off the top and then wonder why we don't have more investigators. These people have friends and families and connections. Every data point is a link to a million others, but if you never follow the links, you never find the other data points. Blind spots. And one of the usual victims of blind spots are fathers.

Think about this for a minute. Women generally tend to be more readily receptive to the gospel. But even if you baptize 10,000 women and no Melchizedek Priesthood holders, can you split the ward? Nope. Can those women be sealed in the temple and become an eternal family? Nope. Can they receive all of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant which is our whole purpose for being here anyway? Nope, they can't. We need fathers. Fathers are the backbone of the church. Why does every worthy man hold the Priesthood? Because the family is the basic unit of the church, and without that Priesthood link, the family is not connected to the administering agent of the gospel. Families without fathers rarely last, whereas those that are led by fathers become converted. J G, again, is a prime example. When he was converted, the whole family came too. In contrast, many of the women we were teaching in Del Rio without their husbands didn't make it. Maria wouldn't get baptized, Kfell out of activity once she was. Whenever we go in to teach a family, we have to make sure we teach the father his divine role to preside by allowing him to do so. He has to be invited to participate, and even if he doesn't want to, every time we come to teach, we should ask his permission to be there. My whole mission has changed. The invisible walls we kept running into in Del Rio are now visible. This is something that every missionary needs to understand. Teach families by teaching them how to be families, and that includes allowing the father to fulfill his divine role to preside.

No miracles with this one yet, but they're going to come. Probably this week. Hna H and I have been asked to do a training on this for the South Zone's zone conference this week, and I'm really excited!!

Another miracle of the week. We were knocking doors in an apartment complex and had a brief conversation with a young man named A. All we did was give him a card, invite him to church, and get his number to follow up. But guess what?!? He came!! He could only stay one hour yesterday, but said he'd come for all three next week. In the evening, we had a good visit with him and learned more about his life, some wild years growing up and a big changed that happened during a period of consequences. We have another lesson tonight, and I'm really excited to teach him. And guess what? We've checked our blind spots. He lives with his sister and her kids and he has friends too. Are we going to hunt them down? Yes we are.

Some good news from Del Rio!! Hermana L and Hermana L went back to visit M (the mom of J and A that ignored us for a really long time) and she let them in! They even got a return appointment. A and S are making plans to not live together, and A's daughter A got baptized last Sunday. S is planning to be baptized at the end of the month, and asked if I could come down for the baptism. I don't think I'll be able to, but I'm so excited for him!!! 

Funny story. We were talking to two moms and their combined five kids that weren't very interested in what we had to say, but didn't tell us no straight out either. So of course, we kept going. When we were done, we asked if we could come back and set an appointment with the one mom then turned to the other and asked if she lived in the apartment above the other mom's. She told us yes without making eye contact, but then their two little boys ratted her out big time. "No, no!! We live across the street in that building, first apartment on the right!!" Don't try to lie in front of kids. It's not gonna work.

Sage advice from a pro: If you don't want people to see you in your underwear, don't answer the door without your clothes on. A lot of people haven't seemed to figure that one out yet, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Praying for you all as always. Tons of love!