There was a member in one of my other Ward who told crazy stories from his mission all the time. We/the elders would say, "So Hermano, we don't remember...did you love your mission?"
And he would say, "Did I love my mission? Did I love my mission?! Come on, I LOVED MY MISSION!! You can't even imagine, you can't even comprehend how much I loved my mission. It was the best!! Man, you don't even KNOW how much I loved my mission!! You think you love YOUR mission...I LOVED my mission."
And that's how it is.
We talk about living/serving without regrets. We talk about leaving it all on the field, walking away knowing we did our best. I can honestly say that this past week I have been better at talking with everyone than I have been my entire mission. Leaving is strange because I still feel like I have the potential for improving. I am still making forward progress, working smarter, planning better, and growing. But they say the mission is the MTC for life. Sigamos adelante.
There are so many things that have marked me profoundly. The people, the hard times, the good times, the bikes (some literal scars), and especially companions. We did my last role-play of the Restoration this morning, because I wanted to. As I said those words, I could hear my trainer's voice. For the last 16 months, I have carried the same phrases, ideas, and explanations that she taught me. And it is still as true now as it was then. Hopefully I have taught my companion something of value too.
These feelings are hard to describe. I keep waiting to get a call from the mission president telling me that for some strange reason I need to stay here a bit longer. Leaving is one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I can't help being excited at the same time. For 18 months, I have avoided remembering the morning I woke my sisters up to say goodbye. Every single time I think of it, I still cry.
I know that this gospel is true. I know it is life-changing. I know that the Lord has a special place in His heart for missionaries, and I hope He has a special place for returned missionaries as well.
See you soon. I love you all so much.
Imagine me with my hands extended in front of me, like when a little kids says they are "this many" years old. My days fit on two hands.
A few weeks ago we had 5 lessons, then 8, then finally last week we got up to 10. We were so excited last night when we counted them up.
Last week consisted of a lot of miracles and heartbreak, the usual for missionary work. Our investigator passed her baptismal interview on Saturday. On Sunday we talked with her at church. She said she finally brought up baptism with her husband and he is opposed to the idea because he believes it would create a division in their home. She came to give us back the Book of Mormon and all the pamphlets we had given her. I almost cried right there on the spot. We told her that she should keep the books and keep coming to church. We called her this morning to set up another lesson. She sounded really happy. I think she expected us to give up on her. Turns out, missionaries are some of the most persistent people in the world.
We went on exchanges last week and I ended up back with an old companion. Luckily we were on bikes, or we would have been really tempted to drive back to our old area and hang out with the people we love.
I am guessing that soon people will start asking me what I learned from my mission. A bit thing that I have been learning is the beauty of repentance. I love the idea that I can be better every day. I decide who I am every morning. If I don't like the way I have been doing something I say, "That was yesterday." It is great.
A quote that I have been thinking about a lot is from a talk by Elder Holland. He focuses on the conversation that takes place as Christ finds Peter back at his old job fishing and calls him again to God's work. "What I need, Peter, are disciples-- and I need them forever."
To me, this means that my work does not end this week. It doesn't end when I get on the plane or when I have a first name again. Later in the talk, he says, "'If ye love me, keep my commandments,' Jesus said.
So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before."
Nos vemos pronto!
The problem with learning a new language is that sometimes you can't fully communicate your feelings. This was a bit of a problem for my companion this week. Saturday night, after lots of plans falling through, we knelt down and she began our planning session with a really heartfelt prayer. Some highlights, translated from Spanglish to English were, "Please bless my companion with patience" and "We try to being obedient, but no one we they listen! Please, to help us!
(Muffled laughter from both of us) Father, please to forgive me." I have never laughed to hard in a prayer. And it was definitely the most sincere prayer that I have heard in a while.
That being said, there is a three ingredient formula for miracles.
Sincere prayer, concerted effort, and recognition of duty. (Maybe the fourth ingredient would be the Lord's timing.) On Sunday, so many of the people we teach made it to church!! When we got home my companion was like, "That was awesome! To be honest, I wasn't really enjoying being a missionary. But it was so cool to see everyone there! I love them so much!" And that made me feel successful.
We (my companion) gave piano lessons to a group of 11 and 12 year olds. It was fun. Hooray for C scales.
We have been having Mission Leadership councils and it makes me think of marching band because we have been talking about cadence and marching as one. I have learned the importance of goals on my mission.
Sometimes we set goals to make ourselves stretch. Sometimes we put the goals a bit lower because we need to all be able to step as one with confidence. There is beauty in both.
One of the things I have learned on my mission is that often it really doesn't matter what we can or can't do. I would tell one of my companions "No puedo" "I can't". She would say "Tiene que" "You have to". Today I realized that it is more like "You GET to". What a privilege to have seen so many miracles, to have done so many impossible things.
My plan is to write a short email because I need more time later on today to sign up for classes.
Things have been good here. We had 2 exchanges last week. Exchanges are fun because the longer I have been out, the more it feels like a day just being with and old friend. It is different for my companion because this is the first time she is meeting everyone. But she is social and seems to love it. We were at a fireside with lots of other missionaries last night and she said, "You should introduce me to your friends." I said that I only had like two friends there. I know all of the other Hermanas pretty well, but I hardly ever talk to elders or English sisters. So then she forced me to meet new people. We are probably pretty good for each other.
We have started playing sports at the church with the elders in the mornings. It is usually a good start to the morning, except for on Friday when I sprained my ankle. It is looking significantly better today. Now it is less swollen than my knee, which is swollen because somehow I got 10 mosquito bites on it. Just one of those weeks I guess.
Our friend came to a baptism this week. She showed up about an hour late, but at least she made it in time to see the confirmation. That was especially good because she had just been talking with her earlier that day about how much of a blessing it would be to her to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost after being baptized. She was impressed by our explanation. Then she said, "So that's why you keep pushing baptism so much. It's because you know it will bless me." And we were like, "YES!! :D You understand!!"
I know that this church is true. I know that the covenants that we make with God are essential and have the power to transform us. This life is great. It's may be hard sometimes, but it is the best.
Have a good week!
That was just a funny thought I had while knocking. I think maybe three of the people I know will understand that title. For the rest, even if I explained it you probably wouldn't think it was funny.
We had a pretty exciting week. My old companion went home. I got a new companion, Hermana Boss. Now the names in our apartment are Pace, Boss, Fish, and Chow. It's pretty great.
So, this week was pretty cold. But that's ok, because at 8:40 on Saturday night, riding home in 34 degree wind, I found myself.
This was Saturday: breakfast/lunch with Suzie (breakfast for her, lunch for us), mini district meeting with the elders as we tried to figure out what we would say on Sunday at Branch conference, singing practice, then dinner. Then, we stopped by all four people we were planning on visiting. They all looked out the little peephole, then didn't answer. So we stayed in that area knocking doors, waiting for our 8:00 lesson. But then we got a text canceling that lesson. So it was 6:00, freezing cold, and I was not particularly happy. It was so cold that I almost crashed my bike because my fingers wouldn't move to hit the brakes. My companion said, "Let's just say a specific prayer that someone gives us hot chocolate. Specific prayers are always answered!" I was like, "Haha, yeah sure. That would be nice." So we made our agreement of how long we would stay knocking and shivered our way through it.
On the way home, I got up the hill through sheer willpower. It started with trying to remember scriptures about missionary work. They it became a loud pep talk in my head. "I have been called to preach the gospel by a prophet of the living God! I am a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am of the covenant people. I am one of the only two people in this area that has the authority to invite people to be baptized. I cannot be stopped by cold or hills or bikes or wind. I am unconquerable!"
So we made it home. A few minutes later, the other Hermanas knocked on the door and handed us each a cup of hot chocolate. We had to yell in excitement for a few minutes about prayers being. It was beautiful.
So that was our week. Hard things, blessings, and revelation. I know that the Church is true. I know that God cares about us and answers prayers, even when they have no real eternal significance. Sometimes I want to yell it from the mountains and the rooftops.
Faith + action = power
Have a good week!
Like most people, I made some New Year's resolution. Most of them are for when I get home, so I haven't broken them yet. This past week was crazy because one of the Hermanas in a different area went home for health reasons. Her companion came and stayed with the other hermanas in our apartment. So they were in a trio and the 5 of us have been living together. She brought some random stuff, including one of those pull-up bars that you can put on the top of the door frame. It is kind of a life goal of mine to be able to do pull-ups. But I didn't make it my New Year's resolution. So one night after planning, I was messing around and tried it out. It is easier if you jump up a little bit to get some upward momentum. Unfortunately, that upward momentum also knocked the bar off. So it fell, and I fell with it. Luckily, no one saw. But they did all hear it and came to look and laugh at me laying on the ground with my knees scraped up and bruises on my chin and feet. At least I didn't bite my tongue too hard. I might send a picture that they took of me in my next email, when my pride recovers a bit.
In other news, my companion goes home on Wednesday and I am getting a new companion fresh from the MTC. It should be a lot of fun. There is a member in our Ward who has been telling my companion "She's trunky!"
in her broken English every time she sees us. Then my companion disagrees and defends herself. It is hilarious. I guess now that will be directed to me.
There isn't much else to report this week. I can't believe that I am starting my last transfer here. Time has gone by so fast, and it just keeps going faster. I know that being a missionary has changed my life. I know that God has a special place in His heart for those who are dedicating every minute of the day to His work. I have no idea how I will be able to leave this behind.
Have a good year!
I don't really have all that much to write about this week since I talked with my family on Christmas. Also, everyone that we teach has been out of town, or they have family over from Mexico, so they aren't available. (Side note: I realized a few months ago that I have spelled "available" wrong my entire life. "Original" too.)
So we had some unsuccessful evenings, some days where it was hard to focus (Christmas), and then a tornado. It was funny because Friday and Saturday were really warm. We didn't need tights or jackets or anything. As we were biking around on Saturday, it was super windy and humid. We talked about how it looked like a storm, but probably nothing would happen. We even talked about how there was a cold front coming in, "and doesn't a cold front hitting a hot front cause a tornado?" "Yeah, but it probably won't happen."
We happened to be at home when everything happened. The member who was making us dinner that night was busy, so we just stopped by and took it home. Between eating dinner and waiting for a ride to our appointment, the storm started and the tornado sirens went off. We stood out on the porch and watched all the rain and lightning. We even saw green lightning! It was so intense. None of the damage is in our area, so unfortunately we probably won't be assigned to help clean up.
So, a story about actual missionary work. Last week I wrote about our friend Suzi, who helped us gain some respect from hooligans when we were in McDonald's. Last Sunday, she came up to us in church and said "Hey, ima have a Family Home Evening tomorrow. Wanna come?" And we were like sure "Sure! Are you teaching the lesson?" And she said yes. So we went to her house Monday evening. We were expecting Suzi, her mom, and her little brother to be there, and maybe even their older brother. You know, a family thing. Instead, it was Suzi, her brother's girlfriend, and a friend from school. Suzi shared a lesson about the importance of faith and family. It was hard because you could tell that all of them struggled with the idea of familial support. They don't even know what it looks like. Suzi said "Family is important because those are the people that are always there for you...even when sometimes you don't want some of them to be. And they don't let you down. I mean, they usually don't....Well,...they try not to....Mostly."
It was strange being there with them. We had some funny moments, but deep down it was sad. It was like being with a group of refugees. All you want to do is take them under your wing and protect them from the horrors of their everyday life. Their past is ugly and their present and future are uncertain. Generally speaking, any adults that they should be able to go to for help are in so deep in their own problems that they have stopped caring altogether. Hopefully they have a place to sleep tonight. Hopefully things get better in a few years. But when you are under 15 years old, on probation, have never met your biological father, take your pain out on your own body, and spend all your time looking for your next boyfriend in hopes of finding some affection, "better" is a relative term. I mean, at least you are getting over your heroine addiction, right? Sometimes, I just cry.
Often, the only solution we can offer is to pray and have faith. It would be a pretty pathetic answer if it didn't really work. I know that when we understand our true identity, purpose, and destiny, we can do miracles with our lives. God can do miracles with our lives. I know it doesn't look like much to a lot of people, but I know that our message changes lives. Take it or leave it, we are just here to share.
Have a good week!
Unrelated to that subject line: I have been a missionary for 16 months. That's a long time. I am going to miss this life.
Anyway, I wanted to tell you about a funny experience that we had this week. The toughest person that I know is 14 years old. Suzi has grown up in an environment filled with drug abuse, theft, a dysfunctional family, some family members in jail, and all the other usual trials of ghetto life. And she is a leukemia survivor. The thing that she says most often is, "ima pop you in the face." And she will. Every time we talk with her, we tell her to behave herself and not get in fights.
She says, "No promises." As one elder put it, "If I was in a tight spot around here, I wouldn't call the mission president; I would call Suzi."
So while we were in McDonald's on Thursday, using the WiFi to plan out our week, some annoying middle school punks sat down at the table next to ours. The kind who think they are cool because they are loud, tell dirty jokes, and their shorts reach their socks. We were getting fed up with them because they had been running around taking videos of themselves swearing for about an hour. Then, Suzi walked in with her little brother and sat down next to us. The punk kids stared at her and us in shock (she doesn't look like the kind of person who hangs out with Mormon missionaries). She looked at them defiantly and said, "Staring problem much?" They laughed nervously, then got up and left fast. We asked her if she knew them. She said she had already almost gotten in a fight with one of them once. Her little brother was wandering around the restaurant while we talked with her. He came back and said some girls had been calling him names. She said "Those girls over there? Ima talk to them." And before we could stop her, she was heading their way. We looked at each other like, "What do we do? Is it our responsibility to stop her because she is in our Ward and we are kind of adult figures here? Could we even stop her?" Luckily, by the time she got over there, one of the workers had already kicked the girls out. Suzi came back to talk with us for a few minutes. Other kids in the restaurant saw and started to leave. They walked past her, did the the " 'sup " head nod thing, and walked out. By the time she shook our hands and left, we were the only ones in the restaurant.
Literally every other customer had considered it in their best interest to leave before any problems could arise between them and Suzi. We felt like we owned that place. "Do you know Suzi? Well, we are pretty tight. That's right, I would leave too if I were you." Haha just kidding. But that's what it felt like.
Among our other adventures, we had a Christmas Ward Christmas party.
All the usual Hispanic-attempts-at-traditional-Caucasian-Christmas
foods were served: turkey, rolls, mashed potatoes, flan, jalapeños, and spaghetti. It is so funny that every time they think "Let's do American food", their first thoughts are turkey and spaghetti. Every time. There were also the usual technical difficulties with the sound system. Then Santa came and all the little kids took pictures with him. Someone thought they were funny and said "The missionaries should take pictures with him!" So we did. The entire Ward thought it was hilarious and took pictures. Then they had 3 piñatas. It was fun.
We has some really powerful lessons last week. One of my favorites was when our member who has only been in the church for about a year came with us to a lesson. She testified really powerfully about how the gospel has changed her life and given her strength in all of her trials. When we were talking with her afterward, she told us that she hadn't know that she had a testimony, but she believed those things and it made her happy to share them. It was amazing.
Merry Christmas!! In all of the commercialism and craziness, please try to remember Christ and do your best to bring His influence and teachings into your lives. That is one of the biggest reasons why we are all here.
Dear Sister Pace,
there are many changes. That is just the way it goes. However, there are some things that will always remain, like family or the mountains around my town that I love or the utter joy of eating pumpkin pie for breakfast. Or, like this button. I still don't know how to get rid of it.