Sunday, January 4, 2015

December 30th

It was so nice talking to you :).  I think that's probably what made Christmas Christmas because nothing else felt like it.  But that's okay, being a missionary during the Christmas season is the best.  It makes up for everything else.  We had wonderful Mexican style spaghetti, chicken and tuna salad for dinner, scattered with tamales throughout the day and scrumptious pina empanadas. I'll make those for you one day.
The next day felt maybe a little more like Christmas because it SNOWED!!!!  Seriously, it snowed in El Paso!!!  And it dusted everything and then melted, but it was still beautiful :)
Most of our week was spent tracking down people.  We have a huge ward list and so to help clear it out, we went around visiting everyone we didn't know and as a result we found a lot of people who no longer live in their houses/apartments.  So a lot of MIA members.  We have #s for some of them, so hopefully with the help of the ward missionaries, we can track down some of these members and send their records to the right place. 
We had one miracle visit as we were tracking down members.  Since most of them had moved, we were getting an opportunity to teach the less active members and help them come back, but we found one sister who was baptized 3 years ago.  Her story started when the elders found her.  She had been going through some hard times, a rough divorce and financial problems and the elders found her and brought some peace into her life.  And then after about a year of activity, she stopped going to church.  Her problems have gotten worse and she has felt over and over again that God has forgotten her.  Not completely forgotten, but mostly. And everything she went through, she said that she had to go through herself, because all her family lives far away.
Two thoughts came to mind as we talked with her (and she agreed that we could come back!).  1. Maybe with this point I'm being overly optimistic, but I believe that if this sister had been given visiting teachers 3 years ago she would still be active today.  And not the visiting teachers that barely call or make a visit, but the ones that actually care.  That's one thing that I've seen wards struggle with here, and maybe they struggle with it everywhere, but I've just been blind to the problem.  The visiting and home teaching programs are so inspired and should be followed and loved.  President Hinkley said that every new convert needs "a friend, a responsibility and nurturing with the good word of God."  Through the visiting and home teaching programs everybody gets these, and everybody needs these.  Imagine if 3 years ago this sister was given visiting teachers and a visiting teaching assignment.  Right there, she would have 2 or 3 more sisters who would love her and care for her.  They would have helped her testimony grown and they would have been able to stand by her and help her through the trials she was going to face.  If the programs weren't inspired from God, we wouldn't have them, but they are, so we need to do them.  I have seen so many families in the wards where I've served where maybe having a home or visiting teacher would have made a difference in their activity level.  And as President Uchtdorf said in the October conference we "need to be faithful in making [our] monthly visits, all without missing the most important why behind this commandment: to love God and fellowmen."  These programs are not just check boxes to do every month.  They are requirements for us that we need to do, so that we our selves can be perfected in Christ, but also so that our brothers and sisters can be perfected in Christ.  In my studies this week, I came across the purposes of Relief Society; 1. to increase faith and personal righteousness, 2. to strengthen families and homes and 3. to help those in need.  Not only is that the purpose of relief society, but it's the purpose of the church.  And it's the purpose of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.  And since we're not perfect, God has given us ways to develop our discipleship, and through visiting and home teaching we can do that.  So, if you get anything out of it.... it's to do and learn to love those inspired programs in the church.  And to reach out to help others.
And the second thing that caught my attention while talking to this sister was 2. why do bad things happen to good people?  Why do the righteous need to go through so many trials?  Now, I've studied this all out before and I've gotten my answers before, but while studying this morning, I found new reasons (amazing how that happens :) ).  I wrote a couple weeks ago about the attribute activity that President Miller invited us to do, focusing on one Christ-like attribute a week.  Well, this week was patience and one of the scriptures that Preach My Gospel recommended we read was Mosiah 23:21-22.  As background to the story, these were righteous people who had just fled from a wicked King and they were in the process of building up their city.  They had made covenants with their God and they were trying to improve everyday.  But we can read in Mosiah that "nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.  Nevertheless- whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day.  Yea, and thus it was with this people."  After doing everything right, the were once again put under bondage, made slaves to wicked people, YET their faith and their patience did not fail.  We can see the result of this in the next chapter of Mosiah- chapter 24:9-16. Their faith and patience didn't not fail because they had their trust in the Lord, and in turn, they were delivered through divine guidance.  Elder Jorg Klebingat shared something similar in this last conference. He stated: "millions of your brothers and sisters have been or are being thus tested, so why would you be exempt? Some trials come through your own disobedience or negligence. Other trials come because of the negligence of others or simply because this is a fallen world. When these trials come, the adversary’s minions begin broadcasting that you did something wrong,that this is a punishment, a sign that Heavenly Father does not love you. Ignore that!Instead, try to force a smile, gaze heavenward, and say, “I understand, Lord. I know what this is. A time to prove myself, isn’t it?” Then partner with Him to endure well to the end. Spiritual confidence increases when you accept that “often trials and tribulations are allowed to come into [your life] because of what [you] are doing right.”  I love that he said we should partner with the Lord.  We are put through trials and tests so that we can grown and be strengthened.  God knows and understands our full potentials and he wants to help us grow.  We can't do that without having these trials. And we're not going to reach our potential if we don't do anything.  We are not here to struggle by ourselves but instead to learn to use divine guidance and help because He is always there waiting to give it.  
I love you all and I hope you have a great week!  I hope that as trials come your way you can more fully rely on the Lord to help you.  Embrace the trials and the changes and look forward to knowing that one day they helped you reach your full potential!  Have an absolutely wonderful New Year and I can't wait to hear what some of your goals are!

December 23rd

The week before Christmas and all through the city
the only creature we can find is a little black kitty
Everyone to Juarez has fled
and so to a caroling and a knocking we head-
through the wind and the rain
we sang and we sang
in hopes that someone would open the door
someone who was prepared to learn more!
Though the week wasn't easy
and this rhyme is super cheesy
the week before Christmas was Great!
Chapter Martes: In which a Vision was Interpreted
The week before we had received a referral from a member to visit her neighbor and go carol to her.  Well, we had an appointment cancel and so we went a caroling.  And we had already tried this lady once, but she didn't answer the door.  But when we were out this day, she answered the door crying saying that we were her answer from God.  She had been dealing with herself having cancer and her husband having Alzheimer's.  She wasn't interested in us coming back and teaching her more, but she felt the Spirit and it helped relieve some of her burden in life.  This lady had been praying for help and guidance one night and it came to her in form of a vision.  A white figure appeared to her and touched her heart giving her peace.  Well, we handed her a plan of salvation pamphlet and that was the figure she had seen!  And we testified about Jesus and his plan for her, but she still didn't want us coming back.
Chapter Miercoles: In which we go a caroling
Our appointments all canceled and so we spent about an hour and a half, caroling to people.  Again, no one was interested in us coming back and teaching more, but people for the most part are really nice when they open the door and see you singing. 
Chapter Jueves:  A Christmas without Christmas Cookies
Okay so before you feel bad because of this chapter heading, I really have had Christmas cookies (not as good as Grandma's though...) but Thursday I had the opportunity to help serve a sister in the ward as she made bunuelos for the ward Christmas party.  Guess what I'm making for ya'll next Christmas!  Cookies.  Haha, just kidding, I'll make bunuelos, but probably slightly smaller than the ones made.  And, since they're basically made in the same way as tortillas, I have become an expect tortilla/bunuelo maker.

Chapter Viernes: In which I watch the Music Man
Friday started off like any other day... with district meeting.  And then we did service helping a member with his family history.  And then we asked EVERYBODY in the ward (okay probably not everybody but it felt like it), for a ride to the hospital because F was in the hospital with a kidney infection and we felt like we needed to visit her, we had gotten permission to visit her and all we needed was a ride.  Well, our recent converts N and J took us to the hospital (in the El Centro part of El Paso) and then left us there... because they had other things to do.  And then forgot about us there.... oops.  We had a very lovely lesson with F on Christmas and we read the Luke 2 Christmas story and the 3 Nephi 1 Christmas story.  And then we waited an hour for our ride to come pick us up as we tried to contact them.  We had forgotten our hymnbook or else we would have caroled at the hospital.... double oops.
We made it back in time to go to the ward Christmas party which, started an hour late.  And the party started off with a performance by some of the relief society sisters.  Here's where the Music Man part comes in.  In the music man, think of the Women's dance society when they're doing their performance "one Grecian urn..... two Grecian urns..."...etc. But instead of the whole Grecian urn, speed up the music, put them in Christmas colored church clothes and them have them dancing.  I don't know why it reminded me of the music man, but it could have been because they were up on stage during their thang and everyone else was watching wondering what in the world was going on.  Just like in the movie.  It also could just mean I've been a missionary too long... and I think you really had to be there.  The ward Christmas party food was really good, pozole and bunuelos (which I helped make!!!)

(for those of you who are not familiar with the grecian urn scene in the music man, i found a video on youtube. its only about the first 20 seconds of the video, but that is what emily was referring to.)

Chapter Sabado:  In which we went to 2 baptisms
The 8 year old daughter of a part member family was getting baptized and we were asked to speaking on the holy Ghost.  So we went, and none of our investigators came.  And then later the elders had a baptism and we went, and played the piano, and again, none of our investigators came. But that's alright, I guess.  It's really nice being able to see someone enter the covenant of baptism and start the next step towards eternal life.
Chapter Domingo: The Piano Guys playing in Sacrament
Okay, so not really the Piano Guys, but it was the best musical number I've heard in sacrament meeting.  The primary sang, while I played, and the bishop and a recently returned missionary spoke and then these two brothers played, Ven O' Emmanuel or O Come, Emmanuel.  (basically it sounded like this I think the meeting should have ended after with a prayer... but it didn't. 
Chapter Lunes: Christmas Set to Music
The best zone conference I've been to my entire mission was yesterday. It was our Christmas conference and it focused on Christ, our purpose as missionaries and Christmas.  And it was just so fulfilling Spiritually and emotionally because of the trainings we had, because of the Christmas music preformed and just being around other sister missionaries (we're the only sisters in the zone, so we don't see other sisters very often). 
I love this Gospel more than anything.  I know that it has brought me so many blessings in my life and even though people have their agency I know that it can bless theirs.  I love how my purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, not to force, but to invite, and create an environment where the Spirit can teach and testify.  I am so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and for everything he as done more me, but more importantly, everything he has done for everyone else out there in the world.  He truly is our gift from God.

December 16th

What a crazy week it's been, I can't believe Christmas is next week, much less believe that it's actually December.   I woke up this morning and looked at the date and realized that it was my 14 months mark... who would have thought that 14 months could go by that quickly....
Christmas in the mission is a wonderful thing.  I think i'll do it again next year :).  Monday was probably one of the best Monday's I've ever had.  It was really sad to say goodbye to  Hna Callaway, but I then got to be in an AWESOME trio for a day.  Sister Roedel and Hna Maxwell, 2 of my favorite missionaries!  And we rocked it!  We had 2 amazing lessons and then we spent an hour caroling and OYMing.  And there is just something so special about being able to OYM about Christmas!  Like people are way more excited to talk to you!
One miracle we saw Monday was F- he is the 9 year old of a member who didn't want him to get baptized at 8 because she didn't feel he was prepared.  So now we get to teach him and he's the cutest thing every!  (and super smart... he totally could have gotten baptized at 8).  We were asking him if he'd read in the book of Mormon and he was retelling us the story of Nephi trying to get the plates (1 Nephi 3-4).  When he got to the part about Nephi cutting off Laban's head, he wouldn't tell us that part because "It's disgusting!"  (his words :) )
Tuesday: transfers happened and my new companion is Hna Torres!  She's from Fresno California, has been a member for about 2 years, and she's a native speaker.... Does anyone see a pattern here?  She's fantastic and has a real desire to learn!  Tuesday was good, we were able to teach a lesson and visit with a member and have correlation.

The rest of the week was filled with contacting members, visiting investigators and constantly OYMing.  As a missionary force in the US we are suppose to talk to 70 people a week while doing the "He is the Gift."  Well last week we were 3 people short with a total of 67 OYMs.  So this week our goal is 110.  Go big right?
We haven't been able to teach any news from those OYMs yet, but we have a lot of potential investigators in the people we've met and want us to come back!  So pray that they'll be home and open their doors so that we can teach them!
We had a miracle lesson with M.  She hasn't really been progressing and we have tried and tried to help her, but it really all comes down to her attitude and if she's willing to work for her self.  But she read this week, and the members that came with us, really helped her understand our purpose more (she seems to listen to them more than us...).  She reset a baptismal date and has progressed in little ways. 
We continue caroling people everyday and it's been amazing to see the results.  Some people are really excited and open their doors.  Others just continually walk past the door like nothing is going on... but we've been able to meet some amazing people.  And singing Christmas songs all the time really makes you happy :)
I love you all and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas filled week!  Take some time to appreciate the gift of Jesus Christ and then to share it with other people!  I love you all!

December 8th

Okay, so it really wasn't the first week of Christmas considering that Christmas isn't for a couple more weeks, but it was the first week of December, and boy, it was an interesting week.
I don't think I've told ya'll, but about 2 months ago, we were approached by a member in the YSA ward who was doing an institute/missionary choir for Christmas at UTEP.  Practices started in October and continued through last Sunday, and let me tell you, it was a MIRACLE that everything came together so perfected.  We were originally supposed to preform for the El Paso Children's Crisis Center, but logistics got in the way (I honestly don't know what that means, I just know that it meant the kids didn't show up).  Instead we sang outside on the UTEP Breezway to everybody who passed by.  A member of LDSSA (the club at UTEP) handed out "He is the Gift Cards"  and probably talked to 200+ people, so even though we didn't get to sing to children, it was somewhat productive.  And it was fun (though the practices to get to the performance were sometimes a little painful... it all worked out- CHECK OUT THE PICTURES :) )

After the choir performance we drove to Albuquerque for MLC, luckily it was uneventful.  We even beat President Miller home!  He came home, and then had to make calls (trainer calls!) and we all went to bed.  MLC was incredible!  Overall as a mission our OYMs have dropped in like half!  (THAT"S REALLY BAD), and so we spent a lot of time talking about how we can increase that and help more missionaries open their mouths. President told us to start carol tracting- we have to knock one house every night and sing to them.  And he promised us that if we did this every night, our OYMs would TRIPLE.  So, we're working on that :).  We also talked about how there are different things in the church that are considered sacred.  Examples are the temples, the sacred Grove, the Garden of Gethsemane, etc.  And it came down to the reason that all these places are sacred because of the sacrifice people made.  And then the discussion lead into how our missions can be made sacred.  How we need to sacrifice certain things to make and keep our missions sacred.   It was a wonderful training, and it was just so power to really listen to, participate and meditate about.
Driving home was uneventful too!  We were able to make it to Sparky's before they closed.  It's a little famous hole in the wall place in Hatch NM, and they sell green chile cheese burgers!  Boy, it was really good.  I might make you some when I get home :) 

Friday, well, out of the blue Friday night, President called.  Okay, so it wasn't out of the blue for him, but it certainly wasn't expected by us.  He called to release me as a sister training leader, and to call me as a TRAINER.  Which means I will be companions with a brand new missionary again!  It's the second time I've been called to train and it just happens that it after my previous companion goes home.  So things are a little crazy.  Especially since I was also called to train the other trainer in a training meeting.... make sense of that please ;)
Saturday we went to a baptism for the ward and president was there.  He was able to give me all the information for the trainers' meeting.  And he and I had a nice conversation.  Him: "You really don't like those calls do you?" (referring to his calls late at night) Me: "nope."  But even though I don't like those calls, it's not about what I want or even like, it's about what the Lord wants, and what he knows will best help me.  If fact, I think it was probably Thursday night that I prayed to do the Lord's will not mine, that I would be humble enough to accept what he felt was best for me.  Apparently that meant a training call.
Christmas as started to come in full swing.  Temperature wise, we're still having a beautiful Northwestern summer :) (meaning it's in the 50-70s during the day).  The stake put on a nativity around the work activity Friday and Saturday and it was really fun to go and pretend I was seeing similar nativities from home!  It was also been a lot of fun caroling and I'm excited to see how that continues to go!  I love you all and I hope you have an incredible week!  Share the Christmas Spirit and share the gift!