(Warning: This email is long.)
Let me start with the miracle of fasting. There is such a great power in prayer and fasting, or as the scriptures call it "rejoicing and fasting." This power is so magnificent that to some it might seem unreal. I was so thankful to be fasting with a common purpose as so many of those I love, it really helped me to feel close to everyone and feel their love in return. We also fasted for some specific blessings as a companionship, one of them being to have someone come to church.
My favorite people to work with as a missionary are members of the church. Those who come every week, those who haven't come in a few weeks, and even those who haven't come in years. If there's one thing I know, everyone needs missionaries. Why? Because the entire purpose of a missionary is to help others to feel of the love that God has for them. Too often we think the missionary purpose is simply to "find and teach and baptize" oh hosh posh. That's not it! Its to invite or help others to come closer to Christ and His love. To help them realize their worth and potential. Simply, to help them.
I am here speaking Spanish.. And yes I teach in Spanish.. I make phone calls in Spanish.. I testify in Spanish.. I talk to people in Spanish.. But sometimes its hard because I feel so limited.. And I found myself wishing there was ONE person I was here for to touch their heart in English so that I wouldn't feel so limited by the language.. And then I realized the growth in Stefani.. And that she feels loved. And that is all I care about. That the people I serve know they are loved by the Lord first and then by me. And then to see that the Lord had given me someone to talk to and help in English (her husband doesn't speak Spanish so its only English there) made me realize.. Once again, He heard my prayers. Even the prayers and pleas in Spanish ;)
Did you know that serving a mission costs $400 a month? Missionaries get to email home once a week which usually ends up being 4 times a month depending on where the calendar falls. That means each email I write should in theory be worth $100 because its all y'all really get to hear from me and my adventures. My emails are my "payback" for your support, whether its financial, emotional, or social. That's been my motto my whole mission (having $100 emails) sometimes I succeeded, other times.. Eh.. Last week I feel like it was more of a eh kind of letter. Which is fine because there were 5 Mondays in June not 4 so it was okay to be worth less :) HAHA Really though including today I only have 5 more Mondays. So I have $500 of emails to write.. I sure hope I'm able to pull it off.
This week was really great. We saw a lot of miracles. Of course there were some challenges, as there always are, but this week I felt like I really learned a lot. I feel selfish sometimes.. I mean I'm here to help others to learn and grow etc but some days I feel like I'm not doing a very good job at helping them but instead am stealing the personal growth for myself. And that's what I want to share with you this week. Specific experiences I've had this week which gave me personal growth. All of which are centered around the statement: The Lord Hears Our Pleas.
|Lake Lanier for Pday!|
We try so hard to help people come to church, we invite EVERYONE we meet. But alas.. no one.. ever.. comes. In Branch counsel a few weeks ago some of the members asked us "Elders and Sisters, do you even invite people to church? Why aren't they here?" And it basically crushed me. We really can only do so much.. Teach them the importance of it, promise blessings, share experiences, offer rides, etc. But in the end it has to be the choice of the individual. Soevening while I was saying the prayer to begin our fast as a companionship I felt super impressed to ask that the Lord provide a way for Cristal to come to church as we really have done ALL that we can do. It was one of those moments where I really just gave it all to the Lord and asked not just for a miracle but asked for what seemed the impossible. Because I mean.. she hadn't returned a single phone call all week. morning came and we were in Relief Society waiting for it to start when one of the Hermanas asked us to help the new woman at the end of the hall know where her children should go. Still not thinking anything of it I smiled big and said we'd love to. As we opened the door to the hall I almost felt myself falling to my knees in gratitude when I realized that that "new sister" wasn't new to us at all, but was Cristal who felt prompted to come to church today alone with her 3 children age 4 and under. AND CAME. The Lord Hears Our Pleas.
We are currently teaching a mission prep class to some people in the congregation preparing to leave on their missions and its just awesome! This week we taught about how to be a "successful missionary" so naturally I've done a lot of introspection to see whether or not I would consider myself successful. I certainly haven't been a perfect missionary, I've made my fair share of mistakes, but overall I'm happy. Its funny because I went through each of my areas and asked myself questions like "did I do my best here?" "did I help SOMEONE here?" "did I fulfill what the Lord asked of me there?" "What was MY individual purpose being there?" Etc etc. and I felt like all of them I was able to give answers fairly easily except this last area.. I still sometimes wonder why I'm here, especially speaking Spanish. But then.. once again.. The Lord Heard My Plea and taught me..
|President and Sister Bennion|
I love Julieta. She is the sweetest woman and I especially love her daughters Yadira and Stefani. Yadira is wonderful, she's a single mom with 3 children and has basically adopted us as well. She's the one we call at the end of the month when we have one roll of toilet paper and no money (haha) and she's the one that calls us to see if we're hungry because she just made us lunch. Because that's what Hispanics do.. they feed you to show you love :)
Some weeks ago Julieta had us over for dinner (she lives with Stefani and her family) and Stefani look a liking to Hermana Garcia Valle and I. :) We had a great time talking and she opened up to us about why she hasn't been to church in 11 years and doesn't plan on coming back.. We ate again with them this week and Stefani was SO excited. She had bought us hair stuff (which is making my hair NICE btw) and we had a great time! I'd been having a kind of rough day and I really was just recharged being there. And so thankful that she pulled me aside to say "comes way to fast. You need to start coming to see me more often. You can't leave yet. You hear me?" I just assured her that I'll get a real person phone when I get home and we'll be friends :) So to thank Stefani for her love and kindness and show her how much we cared we decided to heart attach her..
So we show up and.. they are home doing yard work! CODE BLUE!! So we make up the excuse of needing to use the restroom.. haha Classy. But while my companions were inside "using the restroom" they decorated the fridge and left the letter we wrote. We were about 5 min down the road and Stefani calls us. I don't think I have ever heard her so happy! :) Julieta saw us at church and said Stefani cried because she felt so loved and happy and asked Julieta to sign her up to feed us this week. Remember... Food=Love these days. :) I then realized something..
|Is that the world cup at a restaurant?? Of course not.. :)|
Now that I have absolutely written to much and talked your ear off let me just tell you of two more of my favorite experiences we had this week. :) Quickly, I promise!!
1. We taught Rosa and Lydia (they are sisters we are teaching) and all of their kids together. That's 2 adults and 7 children in case you were wondering. So we decided to act out Lehi's dream. It was awesome! We had a rope, blind fold, and a picture of Christ. Then we read scriptures outside and would blind fold the kid and have them find the "iron rod" it was the best! So hilarious! Then of course the kids decided it was our turn and did it to us too. I was basically tackled while being blind folded by an 8 year old, she was being good opposition to not get to the rod. HAHA
2. Maria Luna (someone we tried to teach for awhile but couldn't get in with for over a month) let us come over yesterday morning to meet her daughter and requested we say a prayer for her daughter before she went back to Virginia (her daughter is in the Navy). So we talk and then they start telling us specifics to pray for and Hma Martinez takes notes because Hma Garcia Valle asked her to say the prayer. Out of no where Hma GV asks Maria who she wants to say the prayer and I'm thinking "uh.. I thought Martinez was going to do this?" And of course Maria responds "La Americana." That's me in case you were wondering.. She asked me if I spoke Spanish.. I told her I had only been learning for 7 weeks but I'd do my best. So I grab Hma Martinez's notes and of course they are in English! I can't translate that fast! haha Well.. The Gift of Tongues is real. I was able to pray for all they asked and actually express the thoughts of my heart and the words just came. It was such a miracle. And I think an amazing thing was afterward Maria said that if "the American" can learn to speak Spanish that fast she can learn English. haha So we now have appointments to teach her English and she gave us permission to use the Book of Mormon to help her learn it because that is how I've learned. Miracles all around! :)
Now I'm going to go and let your eyes have a break. I hope that was worth $100 in your eyes! :)
Just know that I am thankful for all of your support. I know the Lord hears and answers our pleas. The answers often come when we are almost at our breaking point and to the edge between light and dark. But when we take a step forward, into the dark, He will immediately illuminate the way so we can walk that much more forward. Years ago I prayed to gain a testimony of the Gospel in another language. This week I finally felt my Spanish was "good enough" to use the footnotes and understand the references.. It was like the gospel just unfolded and I learned so much. He answers our prayers in His timing.
The Lord Hears our Pleas.
I love you!