Monday, August 25, 2014

The Marvelous Light of God‏

25 Agosto 2014

Oh mamamia! Petunia, Pops. Wade, Nathan, Amber, Aaron!!! I luff you all :)

I am sure you are tired of me telling you every week, but I really do not feel like I can express all that we have heard and thought and experienced this week! It hurts my brain just a little to think about organizing all of my thoughts, haha, but I will try. We have focused a lot on Ana (investigator), Luis (investigator), and Ulises (less-active) this week! Each and every one of them is so incredibly different and has lived in different circumstances in their lives, but the answer is always the same: THE GOSPEL. It’s INCREDIBLE. I read Alma 5:7 and it says:

Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word.

Ana, Luis, and Ulises were surrounded by these mists of darkness. I love that it says “they awoke unto God”. It really is like that as we shed a light and hope shines brighter from within them.  It’s hard to describe.

Ana continues to progress sooooo well, it just astounds me really. She asks us the most sincere questions like "what is sin?", and she is so honest with herself and with us, about mistakes made in the past, and truly wants to learn all of the basics to be able to be as obedient and faithful as possible. Although she comes from a family of drug-addicts, abandoned by her parents, and lived life basically shut it her house all of the time to avoid painful influences, not wanting to face the world, here she is coming to know our Savior better and eliminating the mists of darkness. I am shown more and more the influences of the world that we have to fight against every day. There are so many things that I don´t want anyone to have to suffer. Ana has passed through the majority of them.

The Gomez family (the family of Ulises) as well had taken an unexpected turn recently. I remember when I first got here 4 1/2 months ago, Ulises was sitting on his couch, wondering why his wife was abandoning their beautiful family of 6 children. He is not the same person now! It's truly interesting how God makes everything play out. Everything. EVERYTHING that has happened with the Gomez family, with Mary, Paco, Aldis (Ulises´ son). After all of the visits and late night talks with Ulises encouraging him not to give up, Family Home Evening lessons in their home, working with Him to come back to church, helping Aldis with all that has happened in the family, visiting Mary (our Venezuelan Grandmother here who takes such good care of us)....I could go on and on and on about how the Lord prepared our pathways and made them cross at the right time to find those people prepared to return to the gospel and those prepared to receive it!

It truly was incredible how we came to know Ana. Aldis met her the day before and decided to bring her to an activity where we met her. The Lord let our paths cross. It is all worth it. EVERYTHING. Now, Ana has so many loving people around her that she has been lacking all of her life. Ulises is completely illuminated by this light again and has a great friend in the church he can talk to and is truly happy. It is ALL WORTH IT. They call us their angels, but really they touch our lives, and we touch theirs. I am not sure how Heavenly Father plans it out so perfectly, but He does and I feel so grateful to be a missionary doing His work.  I feel so blessed to bring people to see the things of God, so that they can know the goodness of God. (1 Nephi 4:4)

I have had these words playing in my mind all week:

And now, these are the words of Ammon to his brethren, which say thus: My brothers and my brethren, behold I say unto you, how great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started from the land of Zarahemla that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?

Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work. (Alma 26:1, 3)

It has been incredible to see Ana stand up for what is right as her baptismal date is coming near and there is so much opposition coming from her family and her boyfriend. But she simply looks us in the eyes and says "I want to do it". There is no doubt in her mind.

It is incredible to look into the eyes of Luis, our investigator from Cuba as he talks about his past. An abusive father and his mother died young. It has been hard for him to begin to pray, because of the relationship he had with his father, but he is praying every day now! He actually studied with the Jehovah’s Witnesses for two years and was almost baptized, but didn't feel right about it after all, but  we have seen that painful look in his eyes change... he says that we help him to have more hope!

It really has been an incredible week full of miracles and I hope you all know how blessed we are to have a family, a mother, a father, full of love and memories and the gospel. My eyes are opened to what it would be like if we hadn't been blessed in this way. We should NEVER take it for granted. Because I have been blessed with so much, we NEED to share it. We are blessed with so many opportunities to do it every day. We have the happiness of so many people of the world in our hands. Some people have given up hope in even having families and finding a love that makes us feel complete and accepted (not just short term happiness that comes from the world).   I know that living the gospel is the way to happiness :)

Well now that I have written an essay! I have one more quote for you :)

"No wonder we are instructed by the Savior to lose ourselves. He is only asking us to lose the old self in order to find the new self. It is a question not of one's losing identity, but finding one's true identity" - Elder Neil A. Maxwell

I lufff yew alllll!! Have a great week! You're in my prayers!

Love, Hermana Mather

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Planting Seeds‏

18 Agosto 2014

Top of the mornin’ to ya Petunia, Dad, Nathan, Amber, Aaron, Wade, and more family and friends!!!

So, I need to tell you about Ana... :)  Do you remember last week how I told you about how we have the Ward Family Home Evening with Ulises (an incredible less-active man that we have been working with) and his son, Aldis.

Aldis´ friend, Ana, who came is incredible. She seemed to have a lot of fun (we play some ridiculous games and people tend to see that we are goofy, real people) and was very interested in learning more about religion, especially about the Book of Mormon. We had our first lesson with her on Tuesday after she came to English classes. I will never forget this day! She really opened up to us and told her all about her life, which she said she rarely does with people. She is 20 years old, and has had such a rough life. Her mother died of drug overdose when she was very young, and was born with drugs in her body. Luckily she is okay. Her dad is also a drug addict and has been in and out of jail various times. So her grandmother has really raised her all of her life. She is such an intelligent girl and makes the best of what she has. She was SO excited to hear that we have English classes for free. She is so grateful for any opportunity she has to learn. She reminds me a lot of Amber in the way that she loves art and plays the violin; they are very similar in that way!

But this first night she just kept saying that she didn't know nice people existed like those she had met in the church. This has resulted in her staying inside her house all day instead of having friends that aren't good influences or hearing the hurtful things that people say about her appearance on the street. But ever since she began to come to church, she keeps saying: I am so happy! We taught her the first lesson. The most incredible first lesson I have ever experienced. She asked so many simple and sincere questions, all things she had been wondering her whole life. Like what really is sin and how she can get rid of this weight that she feels. And she also asked us... how do I "Come unto Christ". I loved that. We felt the Spirit so strongly as we testified that we come unto Him but receiving his gospel and ordinances through the priesthood authority. We could see it in her eyes as she felt the truth of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. She told us that this is really what she has been looking for her entire life.  She clearly understood. It was incredible!

She explained that what she felt as she heard of how Christ has established His church and when Joseph Smith saw the first vision. She felt a tight feeling in her chest, almost like she felt like crying, but it came and went. She said it was like nothing she had ever felt before. We invited her to baptism, and asked her if she would kneel down then and there to ask if this is truly the Lord's church re-established on the earth and if she should be baptized. As she ended the prayer, that same feeling she had in her chest was back. We all knew it was an answer that YES!!! We all felt it so strongly!!!! She will be baptized at the end of the month :) I sent you pictures of her. I love how happy she is, we just want her to feel so loved. Something she has been lacking her entire life. I have never met such a prepared person to accept the gospel.

One morning this week, I woke up thinking about what a difference it has been from last transfer to this transfer. We did a whole lot of "seed-planting" and I am beginning to realize how important this seed planting part of missionary work is. It is as if the Lord is telling me that no effort in missionary work goes unwasted. Because after our entire last transfer of planting seed after seed, teaching The Restoration on the street day after day, we have come in contact with 4 people who have come in contact with the church up to years ago, in one way or another: Jorge, Nelson, Ana, and Luis. Each of them is progressing incredibly well, and every one of them came to church yesterday. The incredible thing us, the missionaries that planted their "seeds" have NO IDEA the influence they have made in the lives of these people. We never know how our actions and words and conduct are influencing other people. It was a miracle (and very stressful!).  There were 7 investigators that came to church! Miracles!

Nelson is also an incredible man and on his way to getting baptized the same day as Ana. We have seen so many miracles of inviting others to baptism this week. Nelson is from the Dominican Republic, about 45 years old, and he was a little miracle, too. When we stopped him and his mother on the street, he told us that his mother normally never stops to talk to anyone, but he knows this wasn't a coincidence. We just started meeting with him this week, too, and he is always aware of his mother, helping her with whatever she needs, very family oriented, humble, and has always had a strong relationship with God, seeking to do His will in His life. But he always wondered where to find the truth as well. This man found his testimony in the Book of Mormon. He said there is no way that this Book cannot be the words of God. He actually said he woke up one night after having a dream about us, the sister missionaries, haha, and decided to read the Book of Mormon at 3 in the morning. He reads the chapters we give him 3-4 times and I feel like we come to lessons and he just teaches us. People like Nelson and Ana that have such a thirst for the truth make me want to treasure the incredible knowledge that we have in our reach every day and share it with everyone. I love being a missionary and being able to share the peace and joy that the gospel brings us. He says that the Lord had put us in his path so that he can be shown the way to go.

Jorge is also a man that we met on the street, from Columbia. haha  He is so funny. He comes to English classes and never fails to make us all laugh. He has a great sense of humor. He remembers the sister missionaries from over 8 years ago, their names and everything. It just wasn't his time. But now, after all that has happened in his life (deaths of his mother and father, living more in the world, etc.) something has touched Him to find God again. He is a man of a lot of faith and so much light. The Lord has prepared him, too.

One more miracle! Luis!!! Late one Sunday night, we were headed home and decided to talk to him! He said he had also seen missionaries before and talked to them. We have started teaching him the lessons and he is a little bit more hesitant to accept everything, but he gets this sincere look of pure light in his eyes when he feels the spirit, it’s incredible. He is hesitant to accept anything very fast, just because of how deceived he has felt form the whole world. Turns out as well, that the Elders knocked on his door the other day! He was in some of their old contacts and decided to stop by and teach him a lesson. If that is not a sign that is it his time to, then I don´t know what is!!!!  He is from Cuba, and is alone here, he works all the time, but his face lights up when we go visit him where he works. It can be hard because he can only meet during our free time to go home and eat and we feel exhausted by the end of the day, but it’s all worth it!

There is so much more a wish I could tell you :) but I will keep it at that :) we never know the seeds we are planting, and I believe there are so many blossoms that we won't see until after this life, but everything matters in the Lord's eyes. This is His work and he will not let any effort go unwasted.

Each of these experiences this week have continued to affirm my testimony that this is the Christ´s church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that the only way we can receive all of the blessings that the father has for us is through his restored priesthood here on earth. I feel it every time that we testify of these truths. I know without a doubt that the Book of Mormon is a divine Book of God, and like Nefi [Nephi] I know that I do not know that truth of all things, but I do know through my prayers and experiences that Our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live and are so aware of us, I feel their love and answers as I read their words and feel the Holy spirit guide my studies. I know without a doubt that this is His work, and 4 months is starting to seem like an incredibly small amount of time to do all of those important things that he has sent me here to do. What a privilege it is to where the name tag everyday and testify of the FULL truth of his words. I know that we must past through challenges to comprehend just a small portion of the rejection and grief that Christ felt, and so that we can appreciate so much more the times of Joy. I know that His plan for us is real. :)

I love you all so much!!

Have a great week! Moroni 8:3

Love, Hermana Mather

P.S. Oh and wanna hear a funny story? hehe. Elder Howard and Elder Muller told us that yesterday they found a Pokemon card on the ground, supper cool huh? So, of course, they picked up this little treasure and put it in their pocket. Then got back to work! They met a man on the street who was in a hurry, but wanted to give him a card at least with his number on it. But what does he pull out? The pokemon card. hahahahaha. "Here sir, here is our information... oooo... I mean..." Next time Pikachu...

P.P.S. Our mission president challenged us to start reading the Book of Mormon this last week and finish by December 23, Joseph Smith´s birthday. Who is in with me?? We love all of the new things we are learning reading it again :)

The day we had our first lesson with Ana

With Ulises on his birthday!!

Our faces when we go to the mailbox and there are no letters. hahahaha

We went to a Young Adults activity with Ana!
It was at Elder and Sister Hatch´s house, the senior couple here!

Zone meeting! So fun. I feel so blessed to serve with incredible missionaries.
Can you believe Hermana Aagard goes home this week?...

A family of seven from the Canary Islands in our ward!
Jonas, the older one in the pink, is like our third companion.
He is always willing to go to appointments and contact with us.
Our compie!

Ulises and his family :)

Spending the day with Ana yesterday!

"But If Not..."

11 Agosto 2014

Happy week family!!!

This week, oooo this week! It is STILL difficult to sit down and try and put into words all that has happened. I will share a few experiences with you of the many that touched me.

This last transfer has been one of a lot of searching, we felt like we have been opening the area and basically starting from zero, but planting seeds is always good. It can just be hard not to see the fruits right away. But I do know for sure that God truly prepares us to see miracles. It was another one of those weeks. But Friday, Saturday, and Sunday especially, we couldn't help but just feeling like crying in gratitude for the blessings we have received. I love a talk that dad sent me, called "But If Not..."  I love what it says:

Centuries ago, Daniel and his young associates were suddenly thrust from security into the world—a world foreign and intimidating. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship a golden image set up by the king, a furious Nebuchadnezzar told them that if they would not worship as commanded, they would immediately be cast into aborning fiery furnace. “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”

The three young men quickly and confidently responded, “If it be so [iffy cast us into the furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand. “That sounds like my eighth-grade kind of faith. But then they demonstrated that they fully understood what faith is. They continued, “But if not, … we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” That is a statement of true faith.

They knew that they could trust God—even if things didn't turn out the way they hoped.  They knew that faith is more than mental assent, more than an acknowledgment that God lives. Faith is total trust in Him.

Faith is believing that although we do not understand all things, He does. Faith is knowing that although our power is limited, His is not. Faith in Jesus Christ consists of complete reliance on Him.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac.”  Abraham, because of his great faith, was promised posterity greater in number than the stars in the heavens, and that that posterity would come through Isaac. But Abraham immediately complied with the Lord’s command. God would keep His promise, but if not in the manner Abraham expected, he still trusted Him completely.

What does the Lord expect of us with respect to our challenges? He expects us to do all we can do. He does the rest. Nephi said, “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

We must have the same faith as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Our God will deliver us from ridicule and persecution, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from sickness and disease, but if not … . He will deliver us from loneliness, depression, or fear, but if not. … Our God will deliver us from threats, accusations, and insecurity, but if not. … He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones, but if not, … we will trust in the Lord.

Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not. … He will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not. … We will receive a perfect companion and righteous and obedient children, but if not, … we will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that if we do all we can do, we will, in His time and in His way, be delivered and receive all that He has.  I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

These words are so comforting to me!!! The truth is that we can see these miracles when we have faith that the Lord truly has all power, but we are willing to go and do His will, no matter what, even when we do not understand all that is happening around us. Then, those steps we took in the dark become light, and our eyes are opened to miracles.

There was an activity in the church for all of the young single adults that we usually attend when we have young adults that we are teaching. We didn't have any that attended on Friday, but we had to stop at the church to get something, everyone was begging us to come join, but we didn't feel like it was the best use of time.. it was HARD to leave, we really wanted to have a good time with them. But these are the times when God tests our faith, and it proved true.. we hit the streets and got to work.. and we ran into a man that gave us his number a while back! we have been trying to get into contact with him, what a miracle! We taught him the first lesson on the street that night and wanted us to pass by the next week. Two really strong lessons with a very interested and prepared man, it was as if the Lord was just telling us, "Thank you for following my promptings. Well done, my little daughters". It was incredible. His name is Fidel, from Bolivia.

We also found another man on the street, named Jorge, from Columbia who met with the Sister missionaries 8 years ago, and loved it! He remembers their names and everything! We aren't really sure what all happened, but he showed up to church the next day and wanted to know when we could meet again. He is also very prepared.. His mother died about a year ago, and his father 6 years ago, and just hearing him talk about God´s will in his life on the street gave me chills. It was not coincidence that we crossed paths :)

Do you remember me telling you about Ulises? He is a less active man we have been working on reactivating him and his family. It has been an incredible adventure and he has become a dear friend. He LOVES the Book of Mormon and has an incredible ability to look deep into the feelings of the prophets as they wrote the words of the Book of Mormon and express how they felt in this moment. It truly amazes me! He writes very deep poems expressing their feelings. This was a project that he started about 14 years ago in Argentina and it was approved by a general authority, Elder Civic, but never did anything with it. BUT he has started helping us with noche de hogar [(Family) Home Evening] here. We read the passages of the Book of Mormon, and then he reads the incredible interpretations as his son (Aldis, also less-active, we have been working with him too) plays piano pieces he has written. We were amazed. What a spirit we felt from this man, regaining the fire of his testimony. Last night was incredible. On top of all of that, Aldis brought a friend to meet with us. Her name is Ana, and she is 20 years old like me.  She reminds me a bunch of Amber. She is also very prepared!! She loved the warmth of all of the members and was thrilled to receive the Book of Mormon as a gift and know that we teach English classes for free.  What miracles we are seeing with this family. I feel emotional thinking about how God has touched their lives after all of the difficult things they have been through.

One more, we met another man, who has studied with different religions for years. His name is Luis, from Cuba. He was just about ready to give up on love and God and understanding, but the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and The Plan of Salvation have touched him. He is so sincere and he gets an incredible look in his eyes as we teach him these truths.

That is about a highlight of our week. There are so many things like this that happen all the time, and it continues to amaze me how quick we are to forget the miracles God works in our lives, but He is so merciful. I am grateful for the strength he gives us to say "I know that God has all power, I know that he can work miracles here, BUT IF NOT we will continue faithful and firm until the end" and the miracles always come. We can always somehow end the night knowing we did what he wanted us to do, not matter how exhausted or unsure of ourselves we were. I love two more scriptures:

We are constantly learning to have faith and accept the Lords will and wait for the comprehension to come!  His tender mercies will be evident when we do this, and we can feel joy EVERY DAY knowing that we did His will. These scriptures where answers to my prayers!

I hope you all have a great week!



Love, Hermana Mather

PS. Please read the talk: "Realize Your Full Potential" by Richard G. Scott.  Let me know what you think! It’s incredible!

Monday, August 4, 2014

"Here´s My Heart, O Take and Seal It" :)‏

4 Agosto 2014

I love looking back at every transfer of my mission and seeing the lesson that the Lord wanted me to learn. I was sitting in church two weeks ago, feeling a little bit discouraged for lots of little reasons, and I had the strong impression that I need to continue my study of learning about Christ. I thought how can I come to be more like Him? I wrote down "I continue to have the great impression that I need to study 3rd Nephi and ingrain in my mind even better WHO Christ is, how He reacted, what He taught, how we was obedient to Heavenly Father´s will in everything that He did, so that I know how I should act what whatever situation that comes before me. If I want to be like He is.  More worthy, more One with our Heavenly Father, I need to study Christ´s life. This way in any moment, we can ask 'What would Christ do?' and immediately, we have our answer." :) The next day our district leader asked each one of us to study these chapters and prepare a talk for district meeting about Christ. It was truly inspired and one of the most spiritual district meetings I have ever had.

I am amazed by Christ and His teachings.  As I began to study, planning on reading so much more than I did, I got stuck on 3 Nephi 11:7... God [Heavenly Father] has only really talked to us directly from the Bible and the Book of Mormon on rare occasions (Christ´s baptism, the Mount of Transfiguration, when Christ came the Americas, when He appeared with Christ to Joseph Smith) and each time, he says "Behold, My beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased". How can we be assured that God is please with us? If we have the potential to become more like Christ and God, our hope should be that God can say this about each and every one of us. Christ always glorified the Father and submitted Himself to God´s will. He always said "Let thy will be done" and never asked for what he wanted, just simply trusted in God´s divine plan and that all will be well in the end. WE have the great potential to submit ourselves to the Lord´s will everyday of our lives. There is no greater blessing than to be ALL IN... to give ALL to the Lord. Truly the entire purpose of this life is to put in harmony with the will of God, and I have come to know that it is the small and simple acts of faith that we do every day that makes this possible.  I have always loved the song "Come Thou Fount", we even sang it for my farewell if I remember right (haha I wasn't exactly singing.. good thing Amber was there as back-up) but many other things related to the gospel, it has SO MUCH more meaning in my life, what it says:

Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above

I am so grateful for Christ´s example of giving His heart, His service, His comfort, and His life for us. I am realizing more and more everyday that He truly marked the way for us, and all the Lord asks of us is to be more like Christ and give our heart to him. It is my goal to be one with God like Christ was...what a wonderful day it will be when we can all put our names in this scripture: Helaman 10:3-4. We can come to the point where we will not ask anything that is not the Lord´s will. I know that He can make more of us than we can make of ourselves. I feel so privileged to be a missionary and experience these changes in others every day, and see the Lord soften my heart everyday and allow us to see miracles. I know that he has laid the path out that we can obtain perfection and as we come to Him. Life is sweeter :)

It has been another week of LOTS of searching :) we try to keep the energy up and smiles on our faces :) I am not sure I could do it with anyone but Hermana Palomino. A little miracle happened this week, we have started teaching Veronica, the mother of Alison, and she is very receptive and timid. She accepted a visit last week, and Victor ended up being there, so we had a Family Home Evening with them completely unplanned! Alison brought out BINGO so we played the game first in our "backwards" FHE (and good thing, there was a lot of awkward ice to be broken, haha) since Victor and Veronica are justifying living under the same roof for the sake of their daughter. But we felt the spirit as we testified and taught of the restoration. Veronica has lots of questions and doubts, but she is one of the most sincere people I have ever met, I love how honest and open she is. I do not know God´s plan with their family, but I do know that He wants us to keep loving them and it will all be okay. I may not even be here to see Victor get baptized, and that is hard, but I do know that he will be a strong faithful member one day with his family by his side, however long that takes :)

Also just a few highlights of the week:

1. If anyone is looking for lessons on how to pray in Spanish, feel free to just sit by me while I am sleeping. Hermana Palomino and I woke up the other day and I asked how she slept like normal, and she said not so great, I was teaching how someone for a great amount of time how to pray, firmly testifying and teaching. haha all in Spanish. I suppose I dream and sleep talk in Spanish now.

2. Teaching Hermana Palomino English is a fun adventure. We met a pregnant lady the other day.... My companion now knows how to say "she´s about to pop!" haha not the most useful phrase, but hey she knows that and the first vision in English :)

I hope you all have a great week!

I have attached some pictures of the cool tree sweaters they have here, and a bazillion stairs we were walking up to find a less-active lady!

I love you!!!!

Love, Hermana Mather

PS. Oh, please look up this new Mormon Message: The Hope of God's Light. Its so great!