Monday, December 31, 2012

12-31-12

Dearest Family,

WOW!!! Can`t believe that today is the final day of 2012... And what a year it was! My year as a full time missionary of God. I will forever remember this year. It was all that I hoped and even more. I have been very blessed... more on that later. 

So... Alan was BAPTIZED yesterday! It was such a great baptism and he was so happy. The rest of his family will be baptized in the coming weeks as they keep their commitments and prepare themselves more fully. It was truly a beautiful baptism. We had a lot of ward support and the family really enjoyed it. All in all, a wonderful experience. Alan has really changed a lot and he is especially enjoying the young men`s program. We just got anew young men president who is really taking Alan in and helping him to stay strong and not give in to temptations. 

It was SOOOO great to see and talk to everyone on Skype. I am so grateful that I was able to talk with Elder Shelley. It was a highlight of my Christmas. I am so proud of you, Mackay and all that you are doing. Keep up the great work! I am so proud of you. I love Skype! Can`t believe it has been a year and a half since we last talked... love you tons! It was also great to see the rest of the family. You all look really great and I am so proud of all the wonderful things that you are doing. Keep it up! 

This last week, I did a visit to Tigre and it went really well! It was fun to be with Hermana Hualpa again. I am so proud of all that she is doing and who she is becoming. I love her so much. Her new companion in Hermana Marchant and she is just amazing. She is so very obedient and has faith like no one I know. She makes miracles. I was really impressed with her and she taught me a lot. It was really fun to share ideas and learn all together. They had a baptism as well, Ariel, a boy that is part of a family that is coming back to activity in the church. You know how I am... I LOVE working with families who have strayed from the path a bit, help them feel the love of the Savior, come back to activity in the church, and help those who are not yet baptized to make that important covenant... So I was right in my zone there. 

Funny story... one day, while we were walking, Hermana Marchant said "Hermana, you walk like a Princess!!" haha. I don`t think that Hermana Gonzalez reads the blog, but I had to think of her and laugh... I guess that I CAN change... from walking like a man to walking like a princess is good progress, I would say! haha. 

We had the best Christmas EVER! It was just fantastic. The highlights were taking Christmas to the Suarez family and making a Christmas miracle for Hermana Salazar. For the Suarez family, we went with cookies, candies, some pencils (thank you Brad for the pencils... I had 4 left, so it was perfect for the kids!), and a lesson about the true meaning of Christmas. It was really powerful, and really simple. They all cried, saying it was the best Christmas they had ever had... and it was just so simple! The Spirit was so strong and I was really touched. It was a wonderful experience. I am truly grateful.
The other really awesome part of our Christmas was making a Christmas miracle for Hermana Salazar. We realized after our mission conference that she hadn`t received any packages or letters... nothing. She was not too bummed about it because she said that she knew that she wouldn`t be receiving anything. Well, we couldn`t let that happen! So I called a recent convert and asked her if she would accompany me to make a Christmas miracle. Hermana Dunn went with Hermana Salazar to our lessons and I headed out with Hermana Carabajal. It was your typical Christmas Eve craziness with all the last minute shoppers and so we had a bit of a battle. Plus it was like 95 with 100% humidity... death! haha. But it worked out well and we were able to find a really pretty necklace, a watch, a journal, and some candies. It was fun getting it all hidden and then heading back with my companions. The next morning, Hermana Salazar was less than excited when we told her that we wanted to open gifts, but followed us out into the other room. She cried when she saw packages with her name on them under our make-shift tree (a branch that we ripped off a tree outside our apartment). It was so fun to see the joy on her face as she opened each gift. She told us that they don`t really do Christmas in her family, and it was the first experience that she has had with Christmas. Special. I like being Santa`s helper.

Our investigators are doing really well!
Rosana hasn`t been smoking for 2 weeks now and she is on track for her baptism this Saturday! We are so happy for her and that she will be able to follow her kids into the waters of baptism. She is such a special woman! She even took her lip piercing out without us even telling her. She studies the scriptures each day and keeps a journal of what she learns. WOW!

Luc├Ča, ALan`s sister is doing well and will be baptized this coming Sunday. The young woman are really helping her to feel a lot of love and support. The leaders are already getting her started on her personal progress.

Mauro is so great! We love him so much! I contacted him at a bus stop after having missed 3 buses (they aren`t required to stop and if they don`t feel like it, they just don`t stop... we always have to leave plenty early). He was atheist when we met him, and didn`t really have faith in anything. He is SUPER smart and was really questioning everything. He is a chemist and really likes his scientific perspective. It has been really neat seeing him gain his testimony and realized that God and science can go together. He is an awesome young adult. He already lives the word of wisdom and law of chastity, just because he always thought that it should be that way. He is so very prepared. His faith grows each and every day. He has a baptismal date for this Sunday and we know that he will make it! He is still not totally sure, but he continues reading and praying. This last month that we have been working with him has been really special.

Juan and his kids are doing great. He has been really busy, but still finds time to receive us. He and the 4 kids went to the ward Christmas party and really had a great time. They weren`t able to go to church on Sunday, but will this coming week. Our goal for them is to be baptized on the 19th.

Ana and Nayla went on vacation, but will be getting back this week. We have had contact with them for phone and they are still doing really well. They are reading together every day and are on 1Nephi 20. Good stuff! They have dates for the 13th.

We have definitely been very blessed with amazing investigators.

Hermana Hill goes home today so that she can start school next week. That is so weird. I can`t believe that it`s coming to an end. When I saw her last week, we just sat and cried for a minute. I will miss having her here...

2012 was quite the year! I can`t even begin to thank the Lord enough for all the amazing blessings that I was able to receive and the miracles that I participated in. I can literally say that every single day I experienced a miracle. I can say that every single day, I testified of Christ. I can say that every day, I put my name tag on, and left with a smile. The people I met are forever in my heart. The companions I have had have changed me forever. I have had the most difficult and the most wonderful moments of my life. I have changed. I am a different person than I was. My vision is different. My desires are more righteous. I am far from perfect, but I have learned what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. I know Him now in a way that I did not before. I see things in the eternities. I look beyond myself. I have learned to want what God wants.

So, I hope that you have a very happy New Year. I can`t believe all the things that are in store for our family this year. Many people have invited us to make goals and it has been strange thinking of my goals, since most of them don`t have to do with how many investigators we will have in church, how many people will be baptized, etc... I guess all has it`s time and place. But I will say that 2013 is going to be an amazing year. I have made some pretty specific goals with a Spirit of prayer, and I am actually pretty excited for all that is before me. I am so sad to be leaving my dear Argentina, but I will not be leaving my mission. All that I am is thanks to these last 18 months and I know that the Lord expects a lot of me now. My mission will stay with me because it really determines who I am and will be. Something that Hermana Dunn and I have been talking about a lot is just completely eliminating "grey area," since really it doesn`t exist. Everything is black and white, and we want to be on the white side. Small things like burnt CDs, replacer words for bad words, gossip even if it is true or "nice," movies or TV with only "one bad spot," books that I probably wouldn`t see if they were movies, etc. We are disciples of Jesus Christ and He called us FOREVER... at ALL times, and in ALL things, and in ALL places... basically, I am not going to do, say, think, or be anything that I would not in the presence of my Savior. It is going to be an amazing year! I also have formed goals about who I will BE and then formed plans for what I have to DO in order to BE what I want to be... I am pretty excited about all that the Lord wants me to become based on the many blessings that He has given me. In Dad`s words... "this is gonna be cool!" I invite you all to think about who you want to BE this year and then form plans to become that person. Let`s do it together!

I love this gospel! I love my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I love being a missionary. I love testifying of Jesus Christ. I love doing it without apology and standing strong for what I believe. I love Argentina and these dear people. This is God`s
work and He will receive the glory... He has blessed us to be able to participate.

I love you all dearly. Thank you all for your love and support. Thank you for the wonderful Christmas gifts. I loved them all so much! I wish I could send pictures of me in my new clothes... the camera isn`t loading. Sorry. But thank you! We have enjoyed all of the things. You are the best!
Love you!
Hermana Shelley

pictures: 1. Alan's baptism
                2-4. Christmas (Sisters: Dunn, Shelley, and Salazar)










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