First off, I will be officially extending. I talked to President in a leadership training meeting that we had and he said that yes, it can happen! It will only be two or three weeks more, but he wants the time that we can do, even if just a little. We can extend one month from my 18 month mark, which is January 6th, so it looks like I will be getting home around February 6th. Time is flying away from me. I never thought that I would extend, but I really do feel like it is a call from the Lord and I will do it. I figure that two weeks probably won`t make a huge difference in the big scheme of things... I am happy to be here, and I do recognize that it must come to an end at some point, even though it will be so hard to leave these people that I love so dearly. On to the next big adventure.
Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes! It was really fun to hear from some people that I haven`t heard from in a long time. Thank you for thinking of me. I am glad that you all keep up on the blog. I am sorry that I don`t get many hand written letters out. It is tricky and slightly expensive. I try, but we just don`t have a lot of time. My birthday was really good. We had MIRACLES yesterday and that is all that I wanted... that all of our investigators were in church. Wonderful. It was a really great opportunity to give my talk, and it was also Mother`s Day here, so that was fun. Our lunch appointment made me a cake and sang to me, so that was really nice. I have pictures, but this comp doesn`t have the card reader and I didn`t bring my cord. Oops... next week. The young women made me a big birthday card, and that was really special. Like always, I LOVE working with the young women of the ward. I even got some text messages from some members in San Ignacio. Not sure how they got the number, but it was really neat of them to remember. Basically, I cannot believe that I am 23! When did that happen!!! The fact that Kadon is 15 and Mackay is 20 is even MORE weird...
I am SO proud of you for doing the trek! It sounds like it was a really amazing experience and that you had many great opportunities. I sat tearing up as I read about the deaths and resurrections and everything. I said to Hermana Hualpa as I read "my family is the best!" I am so proud of you all. I had to chuckle at the Shelley competitiveness.... what can we do? It`s in the blood! haha.
ELDER SHELLEY!!!!! I am so proud of you! You are going to be an amazing District Leader! You know how to work hard and rely on the Lord, and that is the key. As for your comp, every companion is what you make him to be. Don`t listen to other Elders. If you go into it believing that he is the best Elder in the mission, he WILL be. I promise you that. If you go into it believing that he is 100% obedient, he will be. But if you expect the worst, it could be the worst. I must admit that I sat and cried as I saw your pictures today. It is the first time in my whole mission that the pictures have gone through from your email. I can`t believe how much of a missionary you are! haha. Of course, I knew... but you are so different! You look great. Can`t believe how skinny you are. hahaha. I will pass you the extra 12 pounds I am packing around... haha. But I have finally found the reason that I am a bit heavier... go read Proverbs 28:25... :)
This week was fantastic.
Blanca was not baptized, but we are working with her still. It is tricky because we can`t see her in the week since she got a job as a live in maid. We can call, but not really teach much. We leave her things to read all week, and she does it, but it is difficult. Pray for her. She has the goal of being baptized next Sunday, and she agreed to pray about it.
The Suarez family is doing wonderfully. The ward has really fellowshipped them well and I am just so happy to see their progress. They will be baptized this Sunday. Such a neat experience. I am so humbled to be able to teach them. They are learning really fast. I am especially grateful for the youth of our ward who are really talking care of the kids. They are calling them and inviting them to visit and everything. They go get them for mutual, they pass by on the way to church to go together, etc. What is especially neat is that Zahira, the girl who was baptized 3 weeks ago, is like best friends with Milagros. (yes mom, that name is very common and it means "miracles"). I love when converts get so involved. That is when they stay firm!
We met another FAMILY this week! Javier, an amazing member of our ward gave us the referral of his aunt and family. The husband (YES! They are MARRIED!!!) isn`t around very much so we still haven`t met him, but we were able to meet Marcela and 2 of her kids. They are so prepared! Marcela and her youngest boy, Maxi, both went to church yesterday and LOVED it. The Spirit was really strong in the meetings, so that was so great. They have baptismal dates for the 10th of November. Marcela cried when we taught her about the first vision and said that she knew that it was really true. So prepared. She is an amazing woman who has really overcome some challenges in her life. She has many talents and is even teaching us some neat things! I am so grateful that we were able to meet her.
We were called to go to a leadership training with President this week and it was really amazing. I love those meetings and I am always so humble to be a part of them! We talked about being disciples of Christ forever and never going back (based on Elder Holland`s talk) and how we can help the missionaries that we lead to do the same. We have been changing lots about how we teach recently, one of which is verifying conversion instead of verifying action. Instead of asking just "did you read? How did it go?" we ask things like "How did your reading help you become a better father?" or "how did praying help you feel closer to the Savior?" or "How did attending church help you follow Jesus Christ?" It has been really amazing because we have really seen that the investigators are thinking about their personal conversion and realizing that they are truly changing. I think that this is a principle that we can apply in all areas of the church. When a seminary teacher asks if the kids have read, instead of just getting the number, he can ask how they were changed by their reading. When a Sunday School teacher asks if everyone read the lesson, he can ask what they changed that week because of what they read. I love that. We are continually becoming converted to the Lord and we need to recognize. We don`t just read to read or pray to pray or attend church to attend. We are becoming true disciples of Christ. If we aren`t changed by these experiences, it does not do us any good.
I loved being able to talk in church. It was a really neat experience and I felt really guided. I spoke of how to prepare ourselves to be missionaries always. I addressed two aspects: increasing our personal testimonies and increasing our personal worthiness. I based the personal worthiness part on Alma 5 and singing the song of redeeming love. It was really special to talk about our Savior and how to feel His love and how to be able to do so NOW. Then, when we get that "something different," when the Atonement is TRULY part of our lives, we will naturally share the gospel. I think it started a little fire in the ward... we received 7 referrals yesterday. I love working with members!
Can`t believe that Lauren is getting home next week. Seems like just yesterday that she headed out. Send her my love and prayers.
Quick funny story...
We met an Elderly couple this week and we started talking with them and we set up another appointment and when we asked when we could return, the Grandpa said "Any day but Saturday. Julia here doesn`t like to go out, but I don`t let that get me down. Me, I put in my teeth and I go out on the town!" hahaha. It was SO funny. He was really cute. I thought that he was joking until we passed by on Saturday and decided to just say hi and see how they were doing and Julia told us that he wasn`t home because on Saturdays he puts his teeth in and goes out! haha.
To answer the question, Pasta Frola is sort of like pie... just different. haha. I have pictures, but like I said, I didn`t bring the chord. Next week. And yes, I will be able to cook many of the things that we eat here! I have bought 5 cook books, so that will be lots of fun. The Sisters are always teaching me how to make new things, so that will be a great blessing! Hope my future husband is willing to try some new things :)
Family, I love this work. I love the Gospel. I know that the Church is true. I know that I need to be right here right now. I have changed so much. I can`t tell you how grateful I am for the changes that the Lord has helped me to make. I have different priorities now. I have vision of who I am and who I want to be. I understand what I want in the future, and realize what really matters. I feel like I am finally starting on the path of discipleship. I know my Savior now. I know my Heavenly Father. I love them. I love the scriptures. I love serving in the Kingdom and I know that I will continue to serve wherever I am called to serve. I have seen so many blessings and such great growth in our family and I am so grateful for that. We are going to be an eternal family!
I love you all so much. Thank you for your prayers and your love. I feel every prayer and I truly need every single one.
picuteres: birthday treat with Maria Elena, Jose, and Hermana Hualpa