Two years ago my brilliant and handsome younger brother moved to Sweden for two years to serve a mission for our church.
And tomorrow he is coming back!
Two years ago my brilliant and handsome younger brother moved to Sweden for two years to serve a mission for our church.
And tomorrow he is coming back!
This is like my journal entry for the week. So it is in a lot of Spanglish. But this is what is new this week…
We went to visit Julia and before we had a chance to teach anything, she told us, “Chicas, I´m going to church on Sunday. I tried to go this Sunday, but I waited and waited for a colectivo and no colectivo came. But this Sunday sí o sí voy a ir para la cena sacramental.” I was so completely blown away–Julia, who had told us that she had made the decision not to go back to the church. I asked her why now she wanted to attend church, and she said, “Unos días atrás me llamó Margarita–me di cuenta de que me había ofendido por una tontera, y yo tengo que ir para tomar la cena sacramental.” Then we read the Book of Mormon together, from the beginning. 1 Nefi 1. She had never started reading from the beginning, and she really liked it! And I felt the Spirit in a lesson with Julia for the first time in a long time. There really are no duros para el Señor.
Later that day, we met with César and Natalia. César had prepared a delicious desert with a cracker crust and filling made of cream and strawberry mermelada. Like a frozen strawberry cheesecake. It was delicious. We were trying to teach César about the importance of the priesthood: how it had been restored, how he could be baptized by that authority, and how he could use that authority to bless his own family.
But César just wasn´t having any of it. He complained about the members, about the insincere testimonies that were borne in fast and testimony meeting, about this, about that…we just weren´t making any progress with him.
And then Natalia stood up and went into the house for a moment to see to Lorenzo. And when she did, César whispered to us, “Hermanas, yo me voy a bautizar pero necesito más o menos un mes para cambiar algunos hábitos que tengo.” We were completely floored, and did our best to control our hysterical laughter. We set a fecha with him for the 7th of March, and didn´t say a word to Natalia. I think he is keeping it a secret 10 percent to surprise her and 90 percent to be a punk.
Speaking of there being no duros para el Señor, Liliana is…coming along. The other night we had a cita with Carlos, and he failed us. As we were walking home along Avda. Independencia past Carlos´house, we saw him pull into the driveway with Liliana. Of course we were confused, and because Liliana was so mean to us the last time we tried to talk to her, we decided that it was best to just leave them alone. But they climbed out of the car, and Carlos called us over, and Liliana said, “Pasen, chicas!” and invited us in! We had a really good charla with her–she asked us questions about why we don´t drink coffee, etc. We read from 1 Corintios and explained the concept of a modern prophet who speaks to us about modern-day things. We emphasized the importance of her asking God to know for herself. We had a really great charla with her, and the Lord´s Spirit was there. She got called in to work, because she is the private secretary of the Ministra de Salud and she can get called in to work anytime. But a couple days later, we dropped off some brownies and a pretty handwritten note to her to personally invite her to Carlos´baptism.
After she had to leave, Carlos gave us a ride home, and we aprovechared the opportunity to have a very franca charla with him. We had just found out from the Hno Ledesma that Carlos´departamento had fallen through–the señora had given back his deposit and told him that she had changed her mind about renting to him because her son wanted to put a galpón there in the house. We were in a panic–it was already Tuesday night, and Carlos´baptism was on Tuesday! And he had already invited the whole world! How could we baptize a man who was conviviendo?
We talked to Carlos, and explained just how important the ley de castidad was and just how important it was that he didn´t fall into temptation after he was baptized. We found out that it had been almost a year since he and Liliana had had relaciones. And he told us about a friend of his, a man who lives in Barrio Ambato, with whom he had shared the gospel and talked about the Libro de Mormón. He told us that he wanted to go with the elders to teach his friends. “Soy un pescador de hombres, como ustedes,” he told us. I felt that my heart would burst. And I felt sick at the idea of telling Carlos that he couldn´t get baptized on Saturday.
We entered the pension, and I turned to Hna Steward and said, “Hermana, I know it seems crazy and President will say we´re crazy and it doesn´t make sense to baptize someone that is conviviendo–but I just feel that Carlos needs to get baptized this weekend. When I think about telling him that he can´t get baptized on Saturday, I get a sick and sad feeling.”
She said, “I feel the same way.” So we knelt in mighty prayer and explained our motives to the Lord and asked him to soften President´s heart so that Carlos could get baptized that weekend even though he still hadn´t found an apartment. And to my immense relief, President said yes. He said that because Carlos and Liliana hadn´t had relations for almost a year, because Carlos had promised to keep the law of chastity, and because he was still looking for a place to move, another apartment, where he could move as soon as possible, he could get baptized. Oh my goodness we were overjoyed. Carlos was really going to get baptized. The true measure of if someone is converted to the gospel or not is if they want to share and convert others–and it is evident that Carlos is really converted. He has also been sharing the gospel with Liliana, leaving his folletos laying around the house so that she picks them up and reads them, and answering her questions. There is no doubt in my mind that Carlos is truly converted and ready to be baptized.
Our last charla with Carlos was really special–we wanted to teach him about the sacerdocio, so we had left him to read Alma 13. That night was a crazy night and Hno Ledesma wasn´t available, so we just charlared with Carlos in his house (kind of sketchy–but there wasn´t another option, and anyway it was how the Lord wanted it). It turned out to be the best thing that we could have done with Carlos. He first told us that he had read the chapter three times! And in his book I could see that he had highlighted his favorite parts. He proceeded to read us the whole chapter and give us his commentary, verse by verse. It was the best thing that could have happened because he was able to give commentary of what he had learned. He was so incredibly excited–he talked about how the priesthood was eternal, and how the Lord had chosen him before he was born to receive the gospel, and how powerful and essential the atonement is in our lives, and how badly he wants to work and serve in the kingdom. It was such a beautiful moment–I knew that Carlos was more than ready and I teared up as I felt the power of his spirit. He is getting baptized at the age of fifty-one, but he is already more of a spiritual giant in the gospel and has a deeper testimony of this stuff than I do!
On Thursday Hna Steward and I had a charla franca–she talked to me about trusting in the Lord, and how…I can learn to trust him better. And also have more faith in people, and the Lord´s ability to change and help them. More hope for humanity, ha ha. So that is what this week has been all about–trying to trust the Lord better, and realizing that I can indeed put all my trust and confidence in him. Realizing that he has my back! Again and again and again this week I saw his hand in my life and in the lives of the people here. I saw him soften people´s hearts who seemed impossible. I saw him change situations and solve problems that were impossible. Nothing is impossible for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ!
So on Friday we went to charlar with Pablo Nanini, who I had long since given up on. My compie didn´t help me at all with the lesson, because she couldn´t understand what Pablo was saying. So I was on my own and Pablo was so awkward–hitting on me and saying that he would never go back to church because it wasn´t for him.
I didn´t know what to do. It seemed like a hopeless situation. But I remembered what Hannah and I had talked about. So I didn´t give up. After some awkward charlaring, and reprimanding Pablo for his flirtatious comments, I asked him to bring his Book of Mormon. And I read with him Moroni 6, and applied it directly to him. About how he had been baptized and received the Holy Ghost and now we wanted to help him and guardar him in the camino recto and how it didn´t matter if he had sinned, the Savior and repentance were still there for them, and all of the members of the church wanted to help him and be his family. When I finished Pablo sat in stunned silence. Then I asked him, “What do you think?” And he said, “I want you to teach me to read the scriptures like that. To apply them to my life like that.” I told him that of course he would. And he said that he would like to come back to church. The next day he failed the cita, but it was a start. It was a beginning. It was a miracle that the Lord was able to work through me because I was not of little faith.
So on Saturday when the elders had lost track of the key to the pileta, I refused to get worried or panicky. I was determined to enjoy that day, that moment, with Carlos. And it all worked out fine. The font got filled in time; the baptismal service turned out lovely. One of the best parts was that Liliana came, and she brought her sixteen-year-old niece! The DVD player didn´t work, so we didn´t show the DVD we were planning on. So instead the bishop took the time while everyone was changing and bore his testimony. Instead of squirm in my chair with worry like I usually do when Obispo Diaz gets on one of his rants, I relaxed and put my trust in the Lord. And later Silvina Ledesma told us that Liliana had cried all the way through the Bishop´s testimony. He had talked about finding true happiness and peace in this life. Something in the craziness of his testimony had really struck a chord with her. The Lord had touched her heart. He was in the details of that baptismal service.
David had come to the baptism too. He was able to get to know some of the members better, including Héctor.
After the baptism, the Ledesmas invited us over for an asado. It was us, Liliana, Valentina (the niece), Carlos, the Ledesmas, the hna Margarita, and Silvina´s mom Aída. It was great–Hno Ledesma and Carlos were the asadores, and it was delicious. We charlared comfortably with Liliana, and Valentina had lots of questions about the church. Carlos commented to Hna Steward, “You know, a month ago when we were charlaring here in the patio and Hna Brown asked me if I would be baptized the 3rd of March, I thought–these chicas are crazy! I thought you two were absolutely nuts! And look, here I am, the tenth of March, baptized a member of the church!”
Then Liliana found out that we have a curfew, and she started reprimanding the men for not BBQing faster so that we could get home on time. I thought it was so funny that she was the non-member and the only one concerned about getting us home on time. About halfway through the asado, the Lawsons showed up and told us that we´re staying together this transfer! Woot woot!
I am so sick with strep throat right now. I slept like twelve hours last night. Everything is shut down for carnaval. We were lucky to find a cyber open. But the work goes forward; we are teaching a 20-year-old kid named David who works at the cyber we always go to. When he was fifteen he was driving his moto and crashed it with his girlfriend on it. A year later his dad died, and then right after that his uncle who was his grandfather. His mom lives in Buenos Aires. He’s all alone, and let’s just say he’s really prepared for the gospel. Yesterday we had our first discussion with him, in the park in front of the Catholic church. We talked to him about how he could fill the emptiness inside him by building a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We taught him how to pray. And he accepted a baptismal date for March 10th. He has to stop smoking by then, but I know he can do it. It’s cool when you find someone that you know has been prepared by the hand of the Lord.
I have been thinking a lot lately about Paul and Alma, and what great men they were and how many uncanny similarities there are in their lives and missions. Both passionate persecutors of the saints of God, both called to repentance by miraculous apparitions (by the Lord and by an angel, respectively), both spent all the days of the rest of their lives trying to repair the wrong they had done and defending the cause of truth with every fiber of their being. Both journeyed all around the known world on multiple missionary journeys to the nonbelievers (Gentiles, and Lamanites), while still keeping the church in line at home. Both writers of a significant chunk of the standard works. (The book of Alma is huge! And so is the chunk of the New Testament that Paul wrote.) Where would we be without these two great men?
December 12, 2011
Catamarca feels like home to me. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. This week was the happiest week of my life.
The Savior walked by my side this week. I felt his love and my Heavenly Father’s love in every moment.
Catamarca is bordered by the huge Ancasti mountain range on one side, and the even more impressive Ambato range on the other. Two weeks ago we were on our way out into the foothills of the Ambato, looking for a woman we had contacted while she was waiting for a bus. We didn’t find that woman, but out among the cactus nestled in the dry hills was a small cinderblock house with a man perched on top repairing the roof. His name was Francisco. After talking with him for a few minutes, he called his wife Silvina out to meet us, and they invited us in. The house was tiny–one room that served as the kitchen, dining room, and bedroom for them and their two kids, Enrique and Maria Pia. Francisco’s arms were covered with crazy tattooes. Silvina is the most beautiful woman I’ve eve seen, with eyes that seem to be peering into your very soul. We talked like we were old friends–we all said that we felt as though we had known one another before.
Yesterday Silvina and twelve-year-old Enrique came to church for the first time. In Principios del Evangelio, we learned together about the plan of salvation and Enrique proudly answered all the teacher’s questions and participated in the discussion. Then last night we went back to their house on the hills, and invited Francisco and Silvina to get married in preparation to be baptized. They said that they would pray and ask God about it.
It was Maria Pia’s seventh birthday, so we all headed over to Silvina’s mom’s house down in the barrio Banda de Varela, Silvina saluting all of the neighbors on our way. I asked Silvina’s mom Teresa to teach me how to make her homemade tapas for empanadas (the majority of Argentines just buy their tapas from the super). She showed me how to knead and form the dough, and the little miniature beef and potato empanadas that came out were some of the best I’ve ever eaten! The house was full of tios and primos and tioabuelos coming and going. We met all of them, and they were all so kind to us.
Norma is progressing, too. She’s had a really rocky relationship with her marido for several years, so it was easy for her to make the decision that she needed to separate from him in order to be baptized. But it was one thing to make the decision, and another thing to actually carry it out. We fasted with her for her to have the strength to make him leave the house that was in her name.
On Tuesday night on our way back from our Christmas zone conference in Cordoba, I called Norma to see how she was doing. “Tengo una noticia,” she told us. “He left. He left on Sunday. I came back from work and he wasn’t there.” I couldn’t believe it–I almost squealed with delight. She wouldn’t have to go through the agony of forcing him out of the house, calling the police–he had just left! It was a miracle!
And then the last time we were at Norma’s house, her daughter Estefania shyly told us, “I’m going to try going to church with you. My mom said that I would like it–that everyone’s really friendly. And the verduleria hasn’t been doing well lately. I’m going to try what you said–closing the business on Sunday to see it prosper more during the week.” After weeks of trying, we had all but given up on the hope that Estefania would choose to come to church. But she came yesterday with Norma.
The Christmas zone conference was a delight. I had suggested to Hermana Salas that we do a Christmas talent show, so Hermana Adair and I sang our musical number and then we watched the elders sing all their goofy renditions of Christmas hymns, and we all laughed until our stomachs hurt. Then we heard a loud bellowing “HO HO HO!” and President Salas came in with a Santa costume over his mission suit, towing two Correo Argentino (Argentine postal service) bags that were almost taller than he was. They were all our Christmas packages! The conference was great–we played games, ate choripan, and enjoyed seeing the President and the Hermana. But of course the best part of it all was seeing Mom’s handwriting on my Christmas package. I cried when I read the little kids’ letters, and even more when I read hers.
Last night I was walking home and the sky was all lit up like fire. From up in the foothills it was like we were looking straight into the clouds, we were up so high. They were glowing golden-orange, as though it were the Second Coming. It was though I could really feel Heavenly Father looking down on me. I could feel his love in everything this week, and most of all I could feel his love in his sending his son for me. My Savior Jesus Christ, my best friend. My older brother who looks out for me and gets me out of every scrape I’ve ever gotten into.
He and Heavenly Father are always there for me to talk to when there’s absolutely no one else. All those sleepless nights crying myself to sleep from loneliness and fear on the mission; all those sins that have racked my soul and brought me to my knees to plead for hope and help and forgiveness; all those mean rejections on the street or at people’s doors. And all the good moments too. All the beautiful sunsets, like a present from them to let me know that I’m loved. All those times I felt the fire of the Spirit in my soul as I testified of them and their restored gospel. Every time I saw the nervous smile of one of my brothers and sisters all dressed in white as they stepped down into the waters of the baptismal font. All the Sunday mornings when someone miraculously made it to church. Every homesick ache I’ve felt in my soul as I see my baby sisters growing and changing in the photos Mom sends from home. All the nerve-wracking but exhilarating moments when I step into a new investigator’s home, heart-pounding, not knowing what I’m going to say or how they’re going to respond, but knowing that the Spirit is going to guide my words (a far greater adrenaline rush than any roller coaster I’ve ever ridden or ever mountain I’ve ever climbed!). In every moment they were there. They were there for me. Sometimes they let me struggle for a while, to help me learn to be stronger. But they were there.
I know the Savior lives. I love being one of his missionaries. For “the veil was taken from my mind, and the eyes of my understanding were opened. I saw the Lord…his eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying:
I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.”
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
December 5, 2011
God is still a god of miracles. I know that because I left General Paz
with a lot of tears–a lot of bittersweet tears, sad to leave members
I loved like family not knowing when I would see them again, and also
sad about Patricia. Patricia, our dearly beloved investigator, hadn’t
arrived at her baptismal date because of a lot of complications and
her inability to quit smoking. The whole thing went up in flames
literally an hour before her scheduled baptismal service–the font was
filled and everything.
So I went to Rosedal, another barrio on the other side of Cordoba, to
work with another hermana for about ten days while we waited for our
hijitas to arrive from the U.S. (they had been delayed because of visa
problems). Near the end of the ten days, I got a call from my old zone
leaders. “We have good news,” they told me. “Patricia quit smoking and
we interviewed her today–she’s ready to be baptized. Will you
organize her baptism?”
So from the other side of Cordoba I flew into action, baking brownies
and calling the members and planning the talks and the service.
Although it was thrown together in about twenty-four hours, it was one
of the most beautiful baptismal services I’ve been part of, mostly
because of the look of pure bliss on Patricia’s face.
A few short hours after Patricia’s baptism, I picked up my new
recruit, Hermana Vicki Adair from Mesa, Arizona, at the mission home.
We boarded a midnight bus to Catamarca, about seven hours to the
north. We arrived in Catamarca on Sunday morning and hit the ground
running. We are opening an area in Catamarca, and we are the first
hermanas here in almost twenty years. Add to the mix the fact that my
compañera was brand-new from the U.S. and spoke little Spanish, and it
made for a few…character-building weeks. 🙂 We’ve gotten lost in our
area a lot and we’ve been so exhausted by the long dusty days and the
Catamarca desert heat.
But the Lord has been really kind to us, and we’ve been able to find
some truly elect people here in Catamarca. One such is Norma, who knew
that Joseph Smith was a prophet the first time she prayed and is so
determined to get baptized that she is in the process of separating
from her live-in boyfriend of eight years to be able to do so.
Francisco and Silvina are two others who we surely knew in the life
before. We first talked to them one windy afternoon outside their tiny
cinder-block house up in the cactus-covered hills; they let us come in
that very moment and we instantly fell in love with their young
I see the Lord’s hand in my life; and I know that the difficult times
will only help me to become more like him. I feel such a profound love
for these people. I know that they are my spirit brothers and sisters
and that before this life I made a covenant with the Lord that during
my mortal life I would do his work, missionary work, the work of
bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His spirit
children. I want to keep doing this work for the rest of my life.
November 7, 2011
Until my hijita arrives and I go to Catamarca, I am kicking it in Rosedal (okay, we are working hard) with Hna Frias. She is from Salta, so today we got a bunch of the elders together and she showed us all how to make empanadas salteñas. Last week, to say goodbye to the Flia Juarez in General Paz, Norma Juarez also showed us how to make empanadas salteñas (because she is also from Salta). So basically what I am trying to say is that, with two rounds of practice, with real salteñas to teach me, I am pro. Both Hna Frias and Norma insisted that real salteñas didn’t have olives or raisins, but did have lots of beef, boiled egg, onion, green onion, cumin, and garlic. But I still like the best the salteñas/bolivianas border empanadas the best, with raisins and olives. In Argentina every province has their own kind of empanadas, with slight variations (more onion, or with raisins or without, sweet or spicy, etc.). And they’re all really proud of their empanadas, and they get really mad if someone tries to alter them (put carrots in empanadas salteñas, for instance). But when I go home I’m just going to make the empanadas with whatever stuff I like, ha ha. And I’m excited to try what empanadas catamarceñas are like when I head up north. 🙂
I really sincerely enjoyed my last few weeks in General Paz. Maybe my spirit knew before my brain did that it was almost time for me to leave, because it was like I was drinking in and enjoying everything. All my senses were heightened. The rain-soaked grass down in the villa was more brilliantly green; the crazy people were crazier, and the kind people were even kinder; Hermana Farah’s cooking was even better, and I was really so happy to be there.
I cried and cried and cried to say goodbye to Sonia, to Hna Farah, to her daughter Karina, and most of all to Nora Peralta. But I promised them all that we would see each other again, when they dedicated the temple of Cordoba.
Funny story: there is this crazy woman named Mariana who shows up to church in General Paz about every other domingo. She says the most ridiculous things and interrupts the spirit of the class and everyone tries to be nice to her even though she’s literally mentally ill and should probably be in some kind of institution. Anyway, Hna Chehda was giving the class in Relief Society; Mariana was there; and out of the blue she interrupts the class and shouts out, “¡Los Testigos de Jehova se van al infierno!” (All the Jehovah’s Witnesses are going to hell!). I almost died trying not to laugh, while Hna Chehda tried to go on with her class, and while Hna Farah, who was a Jehovah’s Witness for years before she got baptized, actually did lose it and bust up laughing. Good times.
I love you guys. I miss you a lot. I can’t believe that in less than SEVEN MONTHS I’ll be home with you! But in the meantime I am enjoying the craziness and Cordoba and soon Catamarca too.
November 3, 2011
We had transfers and BIG NEWS–this transfer I am going to train a new missionary and open a new area in Catamarca. The two Argentine provinces of Catamarca and La Rioja both form part of our missionary, but the bulk of the missionaries are in the province of Cordoba because the church is very underdeveloped up north (Catamarca and La Rioja together form one stake). Everyone in the mission is really stoked because apparently there haven’t been hermanas in Catamarca for some sixty years. So I am stoked and I am also ready to really lean on the Lord a lot in the coming months. And I am also ready to fry like a milanesa because the heat in the summer in Catamarca is supposed to be unbearable.
Right now I am in Rosedal, a barrio of Cordoba, with another hermana who is also waiting for her hijita (visa problems for the incoming missionaries). I’ll probably be here for about ten days. I’ll have P-day again on Monday so I can write you all real letters then. Saying goodbye to General Paz was so hard because I really love the people SO MUCH. And I have so many great stories I want to tell you. Also, please pray for me because I feel kind of overwhelmed, and really tired. I keep crying, ha ha. I’m excited for Catamarca but also kind of sad because I was looking forward to seeing all my mission family when everybody gets together at Christmas, and now I will be a ten-hour bus ride away to the north. But I still love the mission and it is still the greatest adventure of my life, and I know that this is the Lord’s work–I am trying to learn to feed his sheep.
I LOVE YOU. You are always present in my thoughts and prayers (I have really trunky prayers, ha ha).
On Thursday, 29 September, I completed NINE MONTHS in the mission.
Nine months as a missionary.
And I love it! I am the happiest I´ve ever been. I feel like I never want to go back home. But don´t worry, I will. Ja ja ja.
What happened this week? Well, one of our most promising baptismal candidates got arrested. Man, I hate when my investigators get arrested. But at least here they don´t get deported from the country, like in Salt Lake City South.
What else? GENERAL CONFERENCE! Thanks to Heavenly Father and his help, we were able to bring five investigators to General Conference.
I love how in the very first talk in conference, the Misión Argentina Córdoba was mentioned! Just like in the last conference. Because we´re preparing the people of Córdoba for a temple, we are doing an important work here in the MAC. Also, did you know that Elder D. Todd Christofferson served his mission here in Córdoba and Elder Richard G. Scott was mission president?
On 7 August I while in Bell Ville, I wrote these words in my journal: “Youth have to get involved in missionary work. It is the future of temple work, and the Church, and the youth.” I was absolutely delighted to hear Elder Bednar reveal that the Lord´s will is exactly that: that youth will use their technological prowess to build up the kingdom by participating in family history work. I´m excited to see what the future holds with lds.org/familyhistoryyouth .
Some of my favorite conference moments were:
New temples announced! Including our own Provo Tabernacle Temple!
Elder Scott reminding us to immerse ourselves in the Book of Mormon
Elder Clayton bear witness that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed the stone cut out of the mountains without hands; it will indeed fill the whole earth.
Elder Andersen declare the importance of bearing and raising children
President Uchtdorf reminding us that feelings of loneliness and despair cannot last forever, and that the Lord is ever mindful of us
Sister Dalton proclaim the incredible influence for good daddies can have on their daughters
Elder Cornish remind me to have more meaningful prayer
…Just to name a few.
Something that is very precious to me is the testimony that I have gained for myself, while on my mission, that Thomas S. Monson is indeed a prophet of God. I know that he holds the keys to the gathering of Israel, or missionary work and temple building. How I love being a part of that work.